Sunday, July 23, 2006


This is a new sensation, this constriction. My throat feels smaller, breath squeezed through a straw-sized opening. I wake up with it in the middle of the night, sit up, wheeze, can’t believe.

Waking up with me, sitting up too with me, taking my hand, squeezing my fingers back when I squeeze, rubbing below the ribs where the muscle contracts now in habit of coughing, and breathing beside me, modeling breath: you. Slow and steady, breathing with me until I learn, until I remember. Lungs remember, accept the message, cool and calm, in and out. This means everything to me; thank you.

Long ago I realized the day feels good only if I write a poem, whatever else happens or doesn’t happen. But I think just working on a poem makes the day, too: getting an idea, a scrap of interesting language, a story, a first line, an image, a word. Getting a start. I can work on fiction for eight hours straight, submit until I’m blue, clean house, read two whole novels on the train, but there is no calm—-no content—-like the calm of poem-work.

Careful stitching. In and out.

This early at the library, it is mostly men at their computers, just a few. The library has been open for forty minutes. One man has already fallen asleep and sleeps upright. One long silver drop of water from the ceiling into a bucket, rain decay. A man in a shaft of sunlight, orange glasses. The same man is at the same spot, six hours later when I return, at his computer. Still does not write a word. Nods and falls asleep into his nodding. Do the sleeping wear ball-caps knowing they are going to be sleeping?

And at night? I am getting used to night. I am getting used to breathing this air. I have heard it will take a month or two, a year, for my body to adjust. I’m willing. My mouth, my winter lungs are willing. I am willing. I am re-learning how to breathe. It’s all right. You’re there.