Sumo in Milan
In Oakland at a therapy conference
the presenter talks about his travels—
Harlem last night, Memphis tomorrow—
trains us about trauma, how slow
chronic stress can be more debilitating
than even crisis; how desperate
you can get in a motel before sleep,
watching reality TV to avoid reality—
relegated to body-building shows
sculpting a six-pack, even eight
defined muscle groups, which
as a psychologist he thought a bit much
even as a defense mechanism.
All he wanted was a toned round mound.
I think about my mid-life Italy trip,
stuck in Milan’s industrial section
waiting for a morning flight
looking for something, anything
on the tiny television with four
settling for the Japanese Sumo
competition I watched mesmerized:
immense mountains of men
in white cotton colliding,
stomping bare feet, glistening bellies
oiled for battle, black ponytails
scything the air like swords.
Sometimes you need
to face something immense
that doesn’t speak your language,
wants to dominate you,
kneel on your throat,
see what you’re made of.
Dane Cervine’s latest book is entitled How Therapists Dance, from Plain View Press (2013), which also published his previous book The Jeweled Net of Indra. His poems have been chosen by Adrienne Rich for a National Writers Union Award; by Tony Hoagland as a finalist for the Wabash Poetry Prize; a Second Place prize for the Caesura Poetry contest, and the Morton Marcus prize; twice a finalist for, and the 2013 winner of, the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Prize; and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Look for his essays at TriQuarterly, CONTRARY, and The Turning Wheel.