By Erin Liana Johnson
PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...
I am newly conscious of my breath.
I am picturing how bronchioles and alveoli
look like the branches or roots of trees,
and imagining the molecules of oxygen in blood and salt water.
I am hearing the sigh of waves on the shore.
I am thinking about how we are all held
in liquid, like tiny sea creatures,
for the first nine months of our lives,
and that once we are born,
we can drown.
I am conscious of the currents passing over and through my thin skin.
And that insects breathe
in their shells and carapaces,
and that snakes taste the air.
That everything furred, feathered, and scaled inhales and exhales,
How we breathe in
to fill ourselves with readiness,
and breathe out to
scream, whisper, sing, speak, moan.
How many different kinds of breath there are.
How we can end each other
by taking it away,
and we’re the only known species
to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
We can literally breathe life into
each others bodies.
There is always enough oxygen on this planet,
we just forget how to use it properly.
I’m remembering that traditional Chinese medicine
instructs us that grief inhabits the lungs,
and that grief unexpressed
every sense so overfull
that we forget the simplest and most vital of rhythms.
And I wonder if the earth has forgotten too.
But then I remember
that the petals of the flowers
open and close,
open, and close.
That leaves curl and uncurl.
The fog rolls out and back in again.
Stones, and glaciers
How very slow that all seems to me,
and how fast I might seem to them.
And how we all move in
In, and out.
For as long as we can.
Erin Liana Johnson has a BA in Literature from the College of Creative Studies in Santa Barbara, CA where she won the Richardson Poetry Prize and the Spectrum Poetry Award in 2006. Recently published works include “Kinship” (Tiny Seed Literary Journal, May, 2020), “Birth Blessing” and “Leo’s Promise” (Other Worldly Women’s Press, Summer Anthology, 2020.). Erin lives in the Central Coast of California where she works as an Associate Clinical Counselor, healer, and poet.