Catherine Zickgraf

Two lifetimes ago, Catherine performed her poetry in Madrid. Now her main jobs are to write and hang out with her family. Her work has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, PankVictorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press. 

 Find her on twitter @czickgraf. Watch and read more at 


  Back in college, Nickie gave me a treasure:
 her paisley polyester blouse 
 patterned with red-green figures like figs.  
 Some nights, headed home from the library, 
 I’d weave my arms through its sleeves, 
 leaving behind books to tour the trees, 
 lime green in the lights 
 lining paths around Lake Osceola.
 Ageless angels smoothed the way 
 as I wandered the cornerless nursery.
 That shirt was magic. Complex lines and lives 
 snaked together geometric necks, 
 twisted slithering vines around each other.
 I tried to follow the map they made, 
 searching for the end of forever. 
 I wore it warming up in ballet.
 Then traveling home across violin fields, 
 I’d tendu pointed toes through notes like doorways. 
 I’d piqué between clefs, end my dance inrelevé
 though those strings to this day still play in the grass.
 And some nights, Nickie and I
 would climb pebble roofs to look down on our lives.
 The clouds blanketing the sky sprayed rain
 warm on our hair as the summer sun, 
 dripping drops from the tip of each strand.
 Most nights, though, I set off alone.
 And as wind off the lake turned
 spokes of windmills unwinding in the dark,
 I’d pirouette in pinwheels of polyester arms—
 feeling my adulthood beginning, 
 I was newly freed to choose my own direction. 
 So I made my own decisions. 
 Though sometimes, petals hung from stems like tears,
 like wombs meant to protect conception,
 like eggs drooping into the earth 
 under shrouds of parachutes.  
 An amber crescent reclines beside the moon tonight. 
 These twenty-five years later, 
 I finally own the words to describe 
 my fingers of feathers surfing waves of endless sky. 
 Living rivers once flowing Eden
 still feed the veins that branch from my heart.
 My time in college is now water under a footbridge, 
 where manatees like ghost submarines
 steer the Miami campus canals.  
 My home is Georgia now
 where these sea cows swim invisibly 
 my backyard creek under nested parliaments of owls.
 For four years I grew  
 until billows of grass at the edge of the wild
 tried to untame my garden.
 Now I have three boys who bring me chaos and joy.
 And cornucopia in the clouds 
 sound harvest horns of plenty now.
 While pinecones are still maturing on the boughs,
 my words curve around a thousand bells,
 from their golden mouths vibrations toll.   
 I tie yarn among long pines for my exploring children 
 so they too can wander their own unknown.
 I watch them from the porch with gratitude
 they’re still young enough that they still return home.
 I lost that shirt one day. 
 Then I graduated college for full-blown adulthood.
 But adventures still fill my mind, 
 dreams will never leave me, 
 will never be fully explored—
 even when my soul one day outruns my body.  

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