Never Sneeze in Front of a Falcon: Three Poems

Three poems found in the real-life remarks of Don Cherry, Charles Oakley, and Ronda Rousey.

October 26, 2015

Toronto-based writer Pasha Malla's first collection of stories, The Withdrawal Method, won the Trillium Book Prize and was shortlisted for the...

Jeff Parker is the author of the novel Ovenman and the story collection The Taste of Penny. His writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, The...

From Pasha Malla and Jeff Parker's Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion: The Poetry of Sportstalk, available now from Featherproof. All illustrations by Cameron Nicholson

A man in yellow suit

Ford Tough

Don Cherry

I was made fun of ’cause I go to church,
I’m easy to do it that way.
One guy—a pink—called me a jerk,
So I thought I’d wear that for him today.

“Is that the kiss of death, that they give like that?”
I was asked, so I asked why.
I said, “I’m your man,” right off the bat,
A famous, good-looking guy.

I was called maudlin because I honor the troops;
I guess that’s what they do around here.
Put that in your pipe you left-wing kooks—
D’you expect Ron MacLean to come here?

In the morning they phoned me
And I was asked, “Why a landslide?”
I’m being ripped to shreds, but he’s no phony,
all you pinkos out there that ride.

Rob’s honest, he’s truthful
He’s like Julian Fantino.
The greatest Mayor Pit Bull
This city’s ever seen-o.

playing basketball

It Is What It Is

Charles Oakley

I’m a grown man.
I do grown things.

I speak the truth, I’m about the truth
And I’m not a bullshitter.

If you don’t know facts
You shouldn’t even interview me

Because I’m gonna expose you
Because it’s bullshit.

If you have a horse that isn’t winning any races
Sooner or later you have to get a new jockey.

We’re not going to go there and lay an egg
Because we already had the chicken.

I’ll just keep eating my bread, sipping my soup
And serving my time.

But the chicken is going to lay
Some more eggs one day. Mayonnaise is overrated.

It’s like having a car with new tires:
Say one tire wear, you buy four—

No. You wait till all them wear, then buy ’em.
Old ain’t nothing.

You’ve got new cars that break down
And old cars that pass them.

You want to rob the bank
But you better not be complaining when you get caught.

I’m like the cops. I’m here to serve.
When you need some, I’ll come to your rescue.

Like the police trying to stop a shootout:
You gotta have your gun out.

Don’t go out there
With your hands down.

Drink your milk
And go to sleep.

A woman yelling

Slaughterhouse in a Blouse

Ronda Rousey

I don’t really care. I don’t still wear blouses. Getting rapped about by Eminem is like getting arm-barred by me. It might not be pleasant if you’re on the other side of it, but it’s so skillfully done you have to be honored. It’s not like this is rocket science. This is fighting. I love fighting. I’m a fighter. There’s something innately human about fighting. People have been fighting each other for millennia. It’s part of human nature. It’s preserving something that’s real, that I think is trying to be crushed out of society. And I think it’s the safest way that we can keep it. People need to hold on to their sanity somehow. The gym is my safe place. It’s where I retain my sanity. It was the guys in the gym who made me be more fashionable. It’s funny that it was the men who really girlied me up instead of the other way around. I was broke, I couldn’t buy anything, but as soon as I made a little bit of money they took me under their Armenian wings. I’ve been broke as fuck, but I’ve never owed anyone shit. It’s hard to sit back and be proud yet. I’m scared all the time. You have to have fear in order to have courage. I’m a courageous person because I’m a scared person. I was never very popular in school. I would go to school and be like this introverted loser kid that no one really knew. I was unhappy and thought that when I got the right body I would be happy. But I was going at it backwards. I had to make myself happy first and then the body came. Happiness is the absence of wants. I might not be perfect, but parts of me are pretty awesome. So if I was an X-Men I’d probably be Wolverine. I speak really, really fast because the people in my family all had very interesting things to say, and so I learned to say what I want to say loud and really fast because that’s the only way I was going to break in and be heard. What other words can I use that won’t change the meaning? What I’m going to do is convince you that it’s a good idea to move in the direction I want you to go. Can I swear on this? I mean, come on. You trying to play that game with me? Tell me anything clever you can think of. I got three sisters, man, and a mom with a PhD. There’s no way any of these girls who get punched in the face for a living can out-argue me. I don’t feel bad at all. I defended myself very well. She’s a cute chick. She chose to have her arm broken. I was technically in a kidnap situation. I just said I could beat up both her and her boyfriend in the same day. So they sued me. Whatever. The confusing thing is we now live in a society where it’s not illegal to be an asshole, but it’s illegal to slap one. People live such soft lives now. When was the last time something rough even touched your skin? Sometimes we need to get a little bit hurt just to be reminded that we’re still human. I don’t enjoy hurting people but it’s part of my job. I was fighting in flip-flops, like you do. Everyone was losing shoes. Somebody got hurt. It was one of those things that most girls go through. I was feeding a falcon. Never sneeze in front of a falcon. Is that such an unbelievable thing to say?

Toronto-based writer Pasha Malla's first collection of stories, The Withdrawal Method, won the Trillium Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. People Park, his new novel, looks at an island community plagued by a series of natural disasters.

Jeff Parker is the author of the novel Ovenman and the story collection The Taste of Penny. His writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ploughshares, Tin House, and others. He co-edited two anthologies of contemporary Russian prose, Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia and Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States. He is the Co-Founder and Director of the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal, and the editor of the DISQUIET imprint of Dzanc Books. He teaches in the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.