The Toughest Man in the Valley of Death

W. Todd Kaneko

“There’s nothing in this world that scares me. Nothing at all. There’s not a wrestler that I’m afraid of. […] Moondog fears no evil, sees no evil. You know why? Because I walk through the Valley of Death, I’m the toughest in the Valley of Death. That’s why I’m not afraid.”

— Moondog Lonnie Mayne, professional wrestler

It’s not fear that drives a man

to commit those brutal acts

he writes about. The self-proclaimed

king of the Mexican Death Match,

Moondog Mayne bashed his own head

with a chair at night, chowed down

on live fish before charging blind

into a fight. Nothing scared me

until that day I woke up, discovered

I had become a man sometime

between thirteen and thirty.

It’s not death that thwarts a man

as he plans his own demise.

That cockcrow, that bow

and arrow, that clock a man strikes

to mark his capacity for pain —

Moondog was gassed those nights

he ate lightbulbs before falling

from turnbuckle to concrete, fueled

by a fifth of Southern Comfort

when he punched out a brick wall

because he was not afraid of anything.

Fear stems from a left hook,

not from any pure locus situated

beneath my sternum. Not fear,

but poetry — that sensation of flying

a man feels right before he tumbles

down a flight of stairs, that fleeting thrill

of a car crash just before the road flips

into the sky, the sky into that long

plunge through the night.

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