Each day from January 7 through January 20, Rumpus Original Poems will feature work in response to the coming presidential inauguration. Today’s poem is from Brian Oliu.
The WWE Hall of Fame Does Not Exist: An Inauguration Poem for Donald Trump
It never truly has: no brick and mortar building built by hands of men that you and I might never see again, silence where there should be the scraping sounds of caulk over tile, two men carrying a plate of hand blown glass to keep children like me from touching the feathered robes of men who carried themselves like kings. Instead, there is an unmarked building that holds everything: every broken table, every piece of barbed wire used to snag a skull, every grandiose set that has become outdated and needed to be replaced. There is nothing to be put on display—no need to highlight anything anymore, no track lighting—we give in to the hum of halogen lights, we assume that there is nothing worth keeping underneath the tarps.
There is no semblance of you there: it is simply words and things that you can claim—a footnote when your name is brought up, a fact brought up with a laugh and the shake of the head. The tie you wore when you got put on your back was presumably thrown out—you have no need to wear the same thing twice and can never understand why anyone would; all things are disposable, no time to hold anything dear: when a ladder breaks, we get a new one.
We speak your name in these grounds because you let a black man with a gold heart take the bumps for you before sliding in to get your hand raised. We speak your name in these grounds despite not having the patience to take the prize yourself: the clippers you used to shave your opponents’ head on a rotating platform in the sky while the other four hands get sliced open with the safety off.
We can laugh about this because wrestling isn’t real. We knew that there was no way you were going to lose the match—there are simply things that outsiders are unwilling to do; we leave that to the professionals—the ones that can afford to let their hair grow long behind the ears just so someone else’s hands can take the follicles down to the scalp. We use the term battle loosely now. We do not have a word for professional anymore. We have lost the names for a lot of things because all things should be predictable; a man simply does not allow themselves to be tangled up in the ropes—a body will not allow itself to drown; when a body begins to burn with its own breath, a mouth will find a way to the surface with a new name and a word thought lost to the ages.
Years later, they blew up the limousine of the man you bested: we saw the tailored pant leg go in, the door slam shut, the car catching on fire. They filmed the scene backwards: the long live walk cutting to pre-taped footage; a puddle of water in the corner appearing like magic; an error in continuity. They left the husk of the car in the parking lot for effect—someone else will get rid of it, there is always a new car. You called his daughter to see if he survived the ordeal: a man of his stature simply does not go up in flames with the world watching. You were not in on the joke—you, the leader of the carnival, you who weighted the milk bottles, you, distracted by the crack of pyrotechnics. You, forgetting the first rule—if you see something it is meant to be seen. You, forgetful.
One day they will put a name on the building where we have kept everything that is worth keeping. Someone will engrave the dates, the cities, the arenas. There will be double-doors that swing open. A woman will take tickets from behind a glass window. There will be holograms, gold belts on display, chairs bent into triangles. There will be videos to help us remember—the prelude to the spear, you climbing the steps.
If I am alive, if we are alive, I will bring my children. We will walk amongst the exhibits; we will buy all the bloating balloons, we will share a bucket of popcorn, heavy with the weight of butter. They will point at the burnt door, the tires blown out from the heat. They will ask me if I remember that day and I will tell them it wasn’t real, that it never existed. They will point and tell me that it is here in front of us, blackened from the smoke. I will remember and I will remember and I will remember. A kernel will get stuck underneath my gums. We will hear a scream and the sound of glass breaking. We will shield our eyes from the shards. Everyone will cheer: we all love a broken window regardless of who goes through it. The children are scared and want to go home. We will not visit the gift shop—we will not commemorate for we are not champions and we have lost our masks. I will tell them that I am sorry for bringing them here; that we unfold the metal legs of the table just to break the wood. I will not tell them that there are no buildings that can hold this. I will not tell whisper the museum is everywhere. I will not tell them that there are always new bodies. I will tell them that we own every single thing that happened to us—that every turnbuckle pad untied is written in the stars by the ghost of the season. That everything broken is worth holding onto, to remind us that there are no such things as legends.
– Brian Oliu
Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of two chapbooks and four full-length collections, So You Know It’s Me (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2011), a series of Craigslist Missed Connections, Leave Luck to Heaven (Uncanny Valley Press, 2014), an ode to 8-bit video games, Enter Your Initials For Record Keeping (Cobalt Press, 2015), essays on NBA Jam, and i/o (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015), a memoir in the form of a computer virus. He is at work on a memoir about translating his grandfather’s book on long distance running, as well as two books on professional wrestling. Recent work appears in Denver Quarterly, Passages North, and Another Chicago Magazine.