Killer Kowalski and the Cauliflower Ear
Written by Todd Kaneko
When I asked my father how a wrestler
sheds fake blood, he said the best thing
Walter Kowalski ever did was break off
that chunk of Yukon Eric’s ear. When I asked
if an ear could be reattached, my father
said they called him Killer after he laughed
at all that blood on the canvas.
The cauliflower ear is a brittle condition—
a gnarled badge for men who live by
the fist, who die when they can no longer hear
their names in mouths of women and children.
When I asked my father about my mother,
he explained how Killer Kowalski left
Jack Dempsey gasping on the floor
with a knee to the gut, how he attacked
a talk show comedian with his claw-hold
because he felt like it, how a blow to the head
can bloom thick with gore and cartilage.
Yukon Eric was a babyface for bloodthirsty
crowds, shot himself in a church parking lot
after his wife divorced him. Killer Kowalski
was the most hated man in wrestling,
attacked nightly by ladies with knives
and umbrellas. When I asked my father
about his life before my mother
left us, about those things a man needs
to know about his father before he dies,
he nodded, pretending he couldn’t hear.
About Todd: W. Todd Kaneko lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work has appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Southeast Review, Lantern Review, NANO Fiction, the Collagist, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop. He teaches at Grand Valley State University. Visit him at www.toddkaneko.com.