War Anthems

"lantern" © Jenny Downing, 2009. CC BY 2.0.
lantern” © Jenny Downing, 2009. CC BY 2.0.
Preparing for war.

We never were fighters and we don’t want to go,
but there are some things you don’t get a choice in.

Winter will crash over and crush us
no matter how well we’ve prepared.

Spring will sweep us up
in a gust of wind, scattering our last reserves
of hope and energy like ashes.

Summer will promise us a new beginning,
another chance to recover,
but it won’t deliver.
The scent of fresh baked goods wafting
into the street is supplied by a department store perfume counter
not a bakery.

Fall will come down heavy,
wrapping us in a fog thick as wet cement,
gluing our feet down
and leaving our heads spinning like tops
on the same ground they always have.

There is not a season for this.
No calendar date that corresponds
with the work we have to do.

We must always be ready.

Never more than two weeks out
from competition form.
Our knuckles always toughened and bloody,
our reflexes always sharpened.
We do not get the luxury of an off-season.
There are no times we get to rest,
to rejuvenate.
We are always on.

I pump war anthems
through my headphones
and my ventricles
while I go running.

Fight songs of the desperate.

Songs about overcoming, songs about survival,
about strength,
about it getting worse before you ever get a chance
to catch your breath.
I keep my head up,
keep my pace quick.

I go to the gym and pick sixty-percent
of my body weight
up off the ground and let out
battle cries
disguised as
well-timed breaths.

Tell myself repeatedly
if I am physically strong
my mind will follow suit.

Survival is no longer the goal.
If you have to play,
you play hard as you can.

Fight dirty.
Dig in.


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