Training at the Yizhuang Combat Sports Academy, 2008


                Too poor for Vaseline, they spread cooking oil
       on my nose and forehead.

                                        At first I swear
                             they want my face
                                                              for themselves, as they study it every
                                              chance they get.

                        They gamble money
           porn from the Cultural Revolution—
                                     the village beauty melting iron pots

                                                  down to scrap metal in a red bra
                        and underwear. Nothing sacred here
                                                                    wants to be sacred anymore.

                                     Scars decorate their faces like arrow feathers,
                                                                           a sprinkling of incense ash
                                                              seasons our white rice.

                                                                  Every night we wring the sweat
                                                                                        out of our only shirts

                                     list the names of men
                                                   and what we did to them.

                        In a fight the question
                                              is never what but how.

                   How do you beat a man who refuses to rise
           from a puddle of his own blood?

                                                          How do you protect yourself from another’s hands
                                                                                                  with your own?

           My sparring partner lies back, dancing
                                     to his own music,

                                                  waits for my hands to drop below my jaw.

                                        Some days they are gentle.
                                                       Some days they leave me concussed, bloody.

                                                              I stumble back to bed, lie on top of the sheets,
                                               dripping sweat.

                                     Somewhere, one of them staggers from bed
                                                                                        to bed, blindfolded, naked

                                               his arms and chest still wet
                                                                           from a shower, muscles like rainclouds
                                                              before a storm.

                             Hands stretched out before him
                                                       he laughs as he searches the room
                                               for my body.

Cutting Weight

People on couch
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