Carrie Shipers Manifesto

I admit that I watch wrestling for mistakes, moments

when their timing’s off, when someone lands with limbs

awkwardly splayed and has to scramble, the way a ref

will keep his back to camera when he asks a guy

if he’s okay, face turned away in case the answer’s no.

I look for limps, black eyes and gritted teeth, bulky knee

and elbow wraps they didn’t need last week. I worry

when guys drop off the card or lose You’re fired

matches. I hope they went home to heal or hang out

with their kids, hope they aren’t really getting fired,

getting into alcohol and drugs. And when it comes

to who’s on top, who wins the belt at pay-per-views

I never buy, I know that too is influenced by factors

I don’t see: who needs surgery or extra push, has a contract

to renew or won’t forgive if promises aren’t kept.

But no matter what I know about what’s happening backstage,

all the ways I’m being tricked so I’ll be entertained,

once the show begins I always get sucked in—hold my breath

or yell at my TV, feel muscles surge and jerk in sympathy.

Every match has something I can map onto my life:

the boss who doesn’t see how much I’m worth,

false friends pursuing their own gain, the grind of showing up

to work when I feel tired, sick and sore, hoping my fans

will show up, too, notice how hard I fight before I lose.

There’s no room for theory in the ring, no time for my mind

to parse what my heart in an instant understands.

When I’m watching it, wrestling feels real because it is.

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