Elegy for the Von Erich Family

Eric Janken Click to

Eric Janken’s poetry has been in Southern Cultures, Regarding Arts & Letters and Aethlon: Journal of Sport Literature.  His interviews and reviews have appeared in Carolina Quarterly.  He is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

Once I had five brothers,
now I’m not even a brother – Kevin Von Erich

Friday nights, old ladies banged
handbags against wobbled steel
girders that flaked yellow paint.
You could taste the Fabulous
Freebirds’ sweat as they strutted
down the ramp cloaked in the Battle
Flag. I was too young to squeeze
my head through the railing, greased
with stale Lonestar to watch cage
matches. Only in my grandfather’s
static-sliced tapes could I glimpse

college boys from A&M protest
the loss of their guys. They’d shower
the ring with half-empty Copenhagen
cans and ice, shouting they’d fight
all y’all Freebird sumbitches in the parking
lot that is now cragged weeds fertilized
by spiked glass. The Dallas Sportatorium’s
smoke-stained ribs are razed.
Five Von Erich brothers, long dead.
Fritz buried his sons to the rhythm
of flesh smacking canvas.

Sometimes I tip-toe through my attic,
praying I don’t anger the bats, to hunt
for my birthright. His Betamax wrestling
tapes. On the KDFW news, sallow Sinaloense
faces press against a barbed detention center
fence, before I switch to the groaning VCR.
Kevin Von Erich perches on the turnbuckle,
unable to leap before the tape ends.
Thighs, tense like a hawk,
blood clumped in his hair.