High School Wrestlers, Wirt County High School, 1985, David B. Prather

Philip Kobylarz, Biblical, Photograph


High School Wrestlers, Wirt County High School, 1985


They wore t-shirts, mostly gray,
fabric that hugged their torsos,

turned them into statues
like those the Greeks left behind

in ruins. I marveled at their dedication,
giving every moment over

to developing muscle. And those
who needed to lose water mass

had spit cups, even in math and English.
They spent hours dehydrating

to avoid a higher weight class
and losing their advantage.

The one at the desk next to mine was smart
that way. He knew his limitations

and his gifts. His small frame
fooled competitors. He knew the forces

of earth and stone. He knew they could be
reshaped and left behind as reminders

that there were goddesses and gods.
And some of them could be broken.

All you need is a fracture point
to make them crumble.

David B. Prather



Review by Daniel Edward Moore

I enjoyed how Prather achieves a level of intimacy with the boys in the poem almost wrestling with his respect and desire for them from a distance, yet close enough to lyrically describe in detail their rituals of becoming men he would never know, only that even the strong can crumble.


Review by Theric Jepson

I love how the simple and direct (almost lazy?) simile at this poem’s open (high-school wrestlers to Greek gods) is immediately dropped, allowing us to settle into a genuine, lived-in world of spit cups and scales—only to return with new strength, all those mundane details having built into something that truly earns that reference to the gods, muddying and complicating that initial simile, into something with real beauty and power. Now that’s a volta!


Review by Jared Pearce

Another character poem, and another interesting perspective delivered by the character.  I like how the reader is reintroduced to the Greeks at the end, reminding us that not only are we the gods and goddesses, the high and lowly, the building and broken, but also, because they’re also identified with the Greeks in the early part of the poem, so are the wrestlers.  Such coherence helps that larger, human picture draw into focus.

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