Self-Portrait with Rescue Inhaler

by Sarah Terrazano

Inhale, deeply, clutch breath in my throat, keep it
there. Push the silver canister down into the red plastic
as if it were whipped cream or spray paint
in summer. Hold my breath and count down from ten, fast
at the end—threetwoone—so I can gasp
the air I’ve been holding in my throat, the closest to my lungs
it ever reaches. At a routine appointment
during allergy season, the doctor says
to the RN-in-training: Have you ever listened
to asthmatic lungs? Something you just need to hear—half-turning
to me—You don’t mind, do you? No. Everyone should know
what a rattling engine sounds like
in a human body, rasped backfiring of the bronchi.
Use this as soon as you need it they say
of the thumb-sized canister, but sometimes I jog
empty-handed just to see what happens.
Like how glasses deteriorate your eyesight
over time: my lungs are always far-sighted
from a full breath. Sometimes when hiking,
the sight of the earth swallowing the sun takes
my breath away, and my fingers fly
to my pocket to clutch the red canister. I hold off
a little longer, knowing it’ll be there
to give the air back.