Vince McMahon and the Tending of the Flock

by BRIAN OLIU

You, creator of worlds, destroyer of men. You, slick-haired, slick-tongued, the slow rumble of a voice that has been layered with ash and pinecone, the bark of a tree cascading down your throat like it has been there all along—steadfast & rooted in cold ground since before any of us were a thought. We give you praise, we give you thanks, we give you a subtle roar when things go our way: a gentle bow of the head as we appreciate you for you instead of what you have become. You, false god. You, a man full of sweat and sand, you in a suit the color of a beautiful lake, you of a color that you created.

You, one of us: you, the voice, you, in a cheap suit, zipped on, velcroed in the back, you, interchangeable. You, knowing the names of all of the maneuvers as if you invented them: released hold, heel kick, brain buster, back breaker. You, crying after my heroes died. You, steadfast in your presentation. You, presenter of worlds.

Praise to you, hallelujah, praise for every red chested slap, every unification, every beer barrel-chested man I would never become, every long-haired snap back for emphasis, every fake punch meant to look beautiful. Every blonde with space tits, every black man thuggish, every islander from the land of the rising sun. Every dead hero in the mold of a hero, every broken back and every brain busted.

I give myself unto you when my own father does not wish to answer questions; my mother secretly sliding tithes through cable wires to keep her child happy after skinny cruisers lifted his shirt up to expose the hairless fat beneath—the old television of my grandfather’s brought home on a Sunday and hooked up by Monday, the first thing I could ever call my own: you amongst drawings of imaginary warriors pulled from magazines—fold out posters where staple holes pierce stomachs that look nothing like mine.

When they ask if I am still loyal, chairman, I am still loyal—I see your fiction in my dreams and wish to be a part of it: to pretend that this is all real and I am here among it; that I am beautiful and beloved, that I am a vampire, that I am from the future, that I am a turkey hatched from an egg. That you have changed my name, rearranged it so it is unrecognizable: that when the crowds chant for me, they spit something new—where too much of my name has been misspelled for too long, that yours is the only true name that is left and it is that of your father. I am still loyal and I praise you with a knowing smile—that I have not changed because you have not changed: that I know all of the tricks—the one about the slap to the thigh, the stomping of the mat, the chair always delivered to the broadest part of the body.

I close my eyes and I am created by you: I am picking brutes over my shoulder, I am spinning them into oblivion. I send them crashing into crumpled heaps, I am hugging the breath out of strangers. I am wrapping my wrists. I am taping my ribs.

And yet there is no room for me here: where there is nothing that creativity can provide other than a quick toss down a flight of stairs. You, god of something I hold dear, break me and make me whole again: make me a businessman with a paisley tie. Make me disappear only to be reborn: a clown for the taking, a golem who eats his own fingers. Put me in a mask that keeps me from breathing.

BRIAN OLIU is originally from New Jersey and currently teaches at the University of Alabama, where he is the Associate Director of the Slash Pine Press internship. He is the author of So You Know It’s Me (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2011) a series of Craigslist Missed Connections, Level End (Origami Zoo Press, 2012), a chapbook based on videogame boss battles, Leave Luck to Heaven, an ode to 8-bit videogames, and i/o (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015), a memoir in the form of a computer virus. He is working on a series of essays about professional wrestlers.