Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


a brief meditation on breath

i have diver’s lungs from holding my
breath for so long. i promise you
i am not trying to break a record
sometimes i just forget to
exhale. my shoulders held tightly
near my neck, i am a ball of tense
living, a tumbleweed with steel-toed
boots. i can’t remember the last time
i felt light as dandelion. i can’t remember
the last time i took the sweetness in
& my diaphragm expanded into song.
they tell me breathing is everything,
meaning if i breathe right i can live to be
ancient. i’ll grow a soft furry tail or be
telekinetic something powerful enough
to heal the world. i swear i thought
the last time i’d think of death with breath
was that balmy day in july when the cops
became a raging fire & sucked the breath
out of Garner; but yesterday i walked
38 blocks to my father’s house with a mask
over my nose & mouth, the sweat dripping
off my chin only to get caught in fabric & pool up
like rain. & i inhaled small spurts of me, little
particles of my dna. i took into body my own self
& thought i’d die from so much exposure
to my own bereavement—they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                        down your neck—

Credit


Copyright © 2020 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“I started this poem at the beginning of the pandemic. I am part of an incredible women’s writing group led by the incomparable Cheryl Boyce Taylor and she had tasked us to write through the uncertainty. I could not help but make the correlation between the inability to take in breath—a symptom of COVID-19 and the loss of breath at the hands of the police—a reality of being Black in America. This was before we knew that this virus would take us in such higher numbers compared to white folks. This was before George Floyd and all that has happened and continues to happen and will continue to happen as we try to get free.”
Yesenia Montilla

Author


Yesenia Montilla

Yesenia Montilla is the author of The Pink Box (Aquarius Press, 2015). A 2014 Cantomundo Fellow, she lives in New York City.

Date Published: 2020-07-21

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/brief-meditation-breath