apocalyptic breathing

This phrase haunts me — it’s how I describe the pain of being conscious in this twenty-first century. Impossible to live this way, see this way each moment. But I think I’ve finally finished the poem that goes with that title:

apocalyptic breathing

one world
clogs my airway
each time I inhale

the yellow stomach of an albatross chick
plastic heap of bottle caps
part of a syringe, a toy soldier

the skin of a five-year-old son
tattoed with barbed wire

the noise of new missiles
the sweat between martyred limb
and patriotic prosthesis

dead oceans
famine
local homicides
 
in one world
one throat

I breathe death
a pebbled piece of sin
too far from any gods
or new language
imagining us beyond war
and waste

words rattle
my airway thins
soon this tongue

detonates into inferno

my voice burns to ash
an orphaned pile near my left tonsil
one willowed breath scatters
cinder to its rightful vacuum

If I could end
with hope
I would

wrap myself
in a hope cape

hook my feet to the stars
and dream wrongside up

claim
my ounce of batty vision

one brook-clear
heart-strung
conversation with a neighbor
unplanned unasked for
dispels cataclysm
arrests hiccups
jumpstarts this breath

then the next

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