Tall Chest

Walking on the treadmill at the Y, I overhear
one of the trainers coaching a woman

through some lunges: Tall chest, tall chest!
And immediately my mind careens toward images

of curio cabinets, the kinds I’ve seen in wealthy
friends’ houses: glass shelves stacked high

with fragile teapots, blue and white Ming vases,
Capodimonte orchids, Lladró figures— Madonna

with child, lovers embracing by a well, a pink-
cheeked girl pouring milk into a saucer

for her porcelain cat. Saint Simeon the Stylite,
paragon of austerity, would have run straight away

back to his rocky pillar in the hills of Syria,
where he was known to pass whole seasons

without eating or drinking, though the good
people in nearby villages sent their children

to deliver parcels of flat bread and goat milk,
which they heaved in buckets via pulley, up

to his narrow aerie reputedly fifty feet above
the ground. It’s said that from the faithfulness

of his daily devotions, the revered saint never once
experienced fear or vertigo, praying for hours on end

standing erect, with arms outstretched in the figure
of a cross: tall chest, tall chest— and for variation,

making obeisance by repeatedly touching his forehead
to his feet. Meanwhile, here I am, breathless from these

short periods of exertion meant to build stamina and
a stronger core— trying to make a virtue out of regular

practice: alternating walking with short bursts of jogging,
lifting weights while remembering to straighten my spine.

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