- Counting breath
Far away from Fifth Avenue,
its tiny needle heart
No more falling earth.
No more trains bound by time.
No more hours in the gut of the city.
I unlace my breath,
count the times
I felt like a highway
in the middle of the afternoon,
stone hard wind
against the street sign:
- The hospital bed
- next to grandmother
- her final breath
- it hurts
- Following breath
When I’m down on my knees, uprooting the worn ground, scraping weeds from the side of the house, I try to catch my breath, a firefly on the run, but end up following it to the earthworm’s body as it writhes under the lawn bag.
It’s almost lunchtime, but I feel the need to stay and help it back to the dirt, return it home.
I pinch its middle and throw it towards the end of the garden, far away from my hand hoe, its slick body pulling itself through the damp earth.
Past the haze of my own desire to finish, to uproot the bare-limbed daisies, I follow earthworm, let out a low hummed breath, again and again, a sentimental ode, a mindful elegy for the impossible weight of our shared life.
- Measuring breath
Hold him tighter, mom. The vet pricks Brutus’ back with the IV. His eight-pound body squirms against my chest.
This will all be over soon, and I’ll get you ice cream, I whisper in his ear. His brown eyes bulge with fear.
How could I make him understand that everything is temporary, that even right then, as I held him I was already thinking of the after, the two of us, heads in the ice cream bowl of the future?
After 10 minutes, he’s hydrated enough to go home. The doctor prescribes him some antibiotics for the kennel cough, and says he should start eating and drinking.
He tilts his head towards mine, and we share a private smile under the cold, white lights of the infirmary.
With whatever strength consumes him, his tail sweeps my stomach, and he pants against my warm cheek.
Barely balancing, he lifts his head and pushes off, puts four paws to the tile.
Nose up, he walks out of the exam room, his fuzzy tail bouncing behind him as he leaves a trail of urine.
All hail, King Brutus.
I stand and watch him, his unrelenting presence, his refined face lowered, a heavy bloom sigh in a garden of daisies.
- Breathing outward (or dying breath)
From time to time, without knowing why, I watch the moon alone. Her moonshine face, a slick red bucket left in the rain, peels away the darkness.
Gasp moon crater.
Gasp virgin moon.
When I was a child, I’d watch her from my bed, through my moon window, through my moon heart.
I wish I were a moon river, a rock in her back, gravity in her throat.
Breathe out sparrow heart,
Breathe in hollow bone,
go on calling me
from outside the closed window,
under the shade of my roof,
as I call back to you,
as I declare my presence,
as I let my words form a breeze,
go somewhere I’ve never been.
LAST DAY ON EARTH
There have been so many nights of listening, yet not enough doing:
A vortex of nothingness in my notebook, the unopened mail and the unmade bed. On my last day on earth, I might let these things slide. I’ll be imperfect, write the crappiest sentence I can think of: I feel sad enough to sink a ship. In the evening, I won’t wear makeup or tie my hair. Instead, I’ll swivel in the thick of my chair, naked as a cat, the small electric bulb swinging above me.
And when the light grows less, I’ll start a new sentence. Something like: It was a dry summer. The trees starved for rain. Almost all the season was a bare rose, promising complete darkness, and nothing but sleep.
I want your heartache, pricked thumb, blackened dirt, tangled weed, little razor.
Make a hill out of me, a pile of chicken bones.
Loren Kleinman has published four full-length poetry collections: Flamenco Sketches, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, Breakable Things, and Stay with Me Awhile, and a memoir The Woman with a Million Hearts. Her personal essays have been published in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Seventeen, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, and The Huffington Post, while her poetry appeared in The New York Times, Drunken Boat, The Moth, Columbia Journal, Patterson Literary Review, and more.