“Medicine Ball,” “Existential Crisis in the Cereal Aisle,” and “Retirement Home, Room 314”

In Issue 72 by David Icenogle

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Photo by karuka on Adobe Stock

Medicine Ball

When I hate myself I reach into photo albums

and pull the child version of me into the present.

I make myself look at that boy

and say the awful things I have said

to the mirror in my mind.

The condemnations rush away

like the refugee raindrops that scatter

on windshields pushing towards the horizon.

I will not punish that child for the sins of his

future.

Then I try to shove the truth

down my throat.

The truth

that I am that child.

The gag reflex of judgment punches back

with an uppercut of expectations.

It is a medicine ball rising in my windpipe,

being pulled by the first shoelaces I ever tied myself,

covered in scars from lessons I never learned.

It doesn’t want me to swallow the recognition

that the mistakes I make as a man

come from the same reasons

for the mistakes I made as a child

and I would never berate the child

the way I do the man.

I will suffocate on self-flagellation.

I will choke to death if I believe I am better

than that boy.

I will run out of breath

believing that they are

two different people.

Existential Crisis in the Cereal Aisle

I am shopping for cereal

and it hits.

I call it the heavy empty.

It smolders in the gut, gets bigger

the more I try to run from it

like a shadow in an alley

of a man racing against his silhouette.

A moment of unreal loneliness,

the panic of an overdose of self-awareness.

It is not an out-of-body-experience.

It is an out-of-experience-body

because I am somewhere else.

Gravity has become a gravedigger,

pulling me down a well so deep that

the opening looks like the sun at midnight.

I am a forest fire on the moon,

too far to be saved, burning alive

even without oxygen that the flames can breathe.

I begin crying

and the falling tears are as unnoticed

as the music in the grocery store.

I have felt this before but

the aloneness is new every time.

Everyone talks about unending love and eternal connection

but maybe this is the true feeling

of having a soul.

Retirement Home, Room 314

A whole lifetime confined to a room.

She used to make endless meals on holidays.

A pool full of ornate dishes, stovetop crowded with pans,

and utensils used once a year stuffed in cups

like arrows in a quiver.

Her kitchen now is a decapitated fridge

and a sink

where she washes no other plates than hers.

The kitchen gets no privacy from the living room,

the bedroom is a closet with pillows.

The coatrack is a nail on a door.

The walls covered in portraits of her children

with their children

with their children.

The pictures become less like memories

and more like exhibits.

This room becomes less living

and more a museum of the past.

The matriarch rests her head

wondering

after spending her life being there

to welcome generations into this world,

who will be here

for her

when she goes.

About the Author

David Icenogle

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David Icenogle is a writer and mental health advocate from the Midwest. He has written non-fiction work for the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as well as poetry for Asylum Magazine, A Tether to this World, Main Street Rag, Rising Phoenix Review, From Whispers and Roars, and others.

Read more work by David Icenogle .