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Karate America
Wendy Vardaman


At the door
we’re to bow, say "Hello, Sir,"
"Hello, Ma’am" to
no one in particular. We
watch seven-
year-olds imitate the master’s combination:
a series of kicks and punches
punctuated by those yells

heard in movies. "Atten-
he cries, and they leap. "Yes, Sir!"
"Yes, Sir!"
they cry—jumping up and down—collapsing
then rising

off the floor, a loop of film seen over
and over.
Parents watch
from a bench,
backs to the wall,
learn what uniforms have to tell:
colors signal levels of buy-in; belts, badges,
stripes announce each child’s

proficiency. The close-
clipped salesman chats
with my uncombed teen, chides
him at "yeah," then asks,
does he clean his room,
turn off the TV, listen at home
and respect his mother?
To which the fast liar replies, "Yes, Sir."

From Obstructed View (Fireweed Press, 2009).
This poem first appeared in Cup of Poems.
Used here with the author’s permission.


Wendy Vardaman is the author of Reliquary of Debt (LitFest Press, 2015) and Obstructed View (Fireweed Press). She is also co-editor of Local Ground(s)—Midwest Poetics and Echolocations, Poets Map Madisonand founding co-editor of Cowfeather Press. One of Madison, Wisconsin's two Poets Laureate (2012-2015), Wendy teaches online through the Loft Literary Center and the Division of Continuing Studies UW-Madison. Wendy has three adult children and has never owned a car. See what she's up to at www.wendyvardaman.comon Twitter @wendylvardaman, and on Tumblr at 




Post New Comment:
My grandson took karate lessons...funny, I never heard him say those polite titles:) Enjoyed the poem, actually, more than the karate! Judy
Posted 05/07/2015 04:52 PM
Love it!!
Posted 05/07/2015 08:33 AM
ed werstein:
Good one, Wendy! Love the title.
Posted 05/07/2015 08:20 AM
great dialogue. loved the phrase: "levels of buy-in." Fun poem, Wendy. Marilyn Z. Windau
Posted 05/07/2015 07:45 AM
wonderful...made me laugh at "fast liar"
Posted 05/07/2015 12:08 AM

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