The TVs bolted to the low ceiling are muted. Closed captioning appears on the screens hanging over humming treadmills and smashing weights. I’m desperate to run from my kids’ sadness. I am rearing them alone while husband’s at war. I will only run in place, though, as evening sunlight angles through the YMCA windows. I stretch hamstrings and calves, arms and neck. “Israel discovers Hamas tunnel inside its border,” the text says. They’re coming for us next, mouths the anchor inside all the TVs. Surely the tunnel’s low ceiling presses the tunneler’s face into the floor as he’s slithering through the denseness of dark. I step up to the machine, start walking in place. Zeal seems to supersede claustrophobia, I conclude. The drama of death follows the drama of life when you’ve spent your life at war. I imagine existing somewhere between life and death. I’m afraid of both, and sometimes I’m numb to both. The broadcast segues smoothly into a photograph of a hometown hero: young man, stoic-jawed, olive-drabbed, dead. But around the room, no one else flinches or steps off their machines to brace hands on knees, hearts racing under ribs. I haven’t seen my husband in months. And after we get him back, he deploys again. Evening news can kick the breath out of my chest. I steady myself against the wall then decide instead to pace the parking lot, smoking another cigarette.
About the Poet:
Catherine Zickgraf’s main jobs are to write poetry and fold laundry. Her work has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, Victorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her recent chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press.
Read and watch her at caththegreat.blogspot.com