David Hadbawnik

The Arm-Wrestling Diaries



You want to arm-

wrestle me? I don’t

think it’s necessary,

but if you insist…

I can pull my ear

lobe like this,

see, it smoothes

everything out

It begins with

the lines on

your face, like

pulling a thread

from a sweater

Then one day

you’re finally able

to shit, and

everything’s OK

But something leaps

over you in

the night and you

search your face

in the mirror

for traces of it

Your arms strain

and there’s a vein

runs down one

of them over

and across

No, not like a

line on a map—

like a vein

purple and over

and down


The neighbors are engaged in a protracted battle— launching sorties of blazing silence in the heart of the night.

An author is propping up the image of his character so that he can stand facing himself in the mirror mouthing the words, “I have nothing to say.”

A shark swims downwind of these words, follows a thin red thread towards the source.


And we face each other

over these words—

the big purple vein

running down and

over connecting us

(He was fooling himself

in the moment he

flipped and lost

count, really began

to look at

(Understood as character

in the character of

trees, houses, things

reached for and

put back, the exact

placement turned

just a bit, the house

turned, the trees

where they were

You want to

arm-wrestle me?


The words seem

smaller this time,

spoken from

a longer distance

in time, like an arm

infinitely long,


the silence eats away


the way pages

turn faster and faster

and fall into water,

each one blazing

before going out

the words just there

behind the white

of the page like

the author’s bio

at the end of

the book—but turning

the page it’s

just more words

there’s a thrill

of reaching the end

and meeting the author

after a long

lifetime of waiting

but he’s not there

or not the real

author or

the words disappear

and you fall

through the hole

that he left

in the words

the silence that stretches


somebody picks up

this book and

finds you

and I wanted to

hold you, I did

but there was a

lump in my throat

and I leaned hard

over my arm a

long time before I

and you lose all

trace of words as they fall

down the side of

your face—your eyes

that is having lost

the thread, the sense

that strung them, the

shape of the tune