Exercising in the Age of Zoom                                            by Maril Crabtree

Reach up high, the teacher says. Keep  
your chest up, torso strong. Hearts  
stay open. Don’t forget to breathe.  
The TV is on in the background. Nurses  
and doctors masked and gowned  
speak the unspeakable, offer their grief  
for all to see, unlike the black bags  
with bodies hidden, piled in trucks  
or stacked in spare rooms.  
Lengthen that spine, our teacher says.  
Our eyes are open. Stand tall, arms wide.  
Look up as high as you can. We’re still  
breathing. The numbers in black keep ticking  
up. The map is covered with red. Graphs  
fill the screen. The grief pours out  
onto empty streets. The TV blares sirens  
and cheers at shift change. Wild animals roam  
silent asphalt. Central Park teems  
with hospital tents. Take a deep breath, teacher  
says. Lift your rib cage. Reach up high. Make  
a fist. Give yourself a little hug. Good job.  

Maril Crabtree’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently Thorny Locust, Adanna, and Literary Mama. Her book Fireflies in the Gathering Dark received the 2018 Kansas Notable Books award and was a finalist for the AAUW Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award.  

Previously printed in The Orchards Poetry Journal (Winter 2021 issue)

Guest Editor Morgan O.H. McCune currently works at Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published previously in River Styx.  

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