Chief Jay Strongbow Knows
All About the Sleeper Hold

Chief Jay Strongbow puts a man down working
a tight sleeper hold in the center of the ring.
That's how he appears in a black and white
photo from the 1970s, a memento
my father left in a cigar box.

But the old Indian could be mourning
for that man slackjawed and falling
limp to the canvas, chin snug in the crook
of Strongbow's elbow. Their bodies
drawn close for that last moment,
a palm laid gentle across forehead
in a final caress, Strongbow presses
his cheek against the man's crown
and howls at the agony of knowing

this is how a body feels as it grows
empty in his arms. This is that snarl
that yokes men to their skeletons,
that snarl entangling us all.
A man cannot contain another's life
in his arms no matter how hard
he squeezes. He cannot know peace
without understanding all that pain
he inflicts on others.

W. Todd Kaneko lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work has appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Southeast Review, NANO Fiction, Blackbird, the Collagist and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. He teaches at Grand Valley State University. Visit him at www.toddkaneko.com.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761