It doesn’t feel as good as it used to
to breathe in this country.
I used to fill myself with good air
in the mountains now and then
and head for the ocean on other days
to draw in as much as I could.
I’m so busy running now from morning
to morning, through mourning and grief
and rage, that my memory of the air
comes only when I stop, briefly, short
of breath. I chop out little gusts of the past
and take in sick gulps of the moment.
I’ve got friends who will say: the mountains
are still there, and they will cure this, and others
who say there’s an ocean and a sky above it
not far away and you can suckle all you want
of the atmosphere there and you will be healed;
but when I go to the mountains or the ocean
it’s one long drag, one long inflation
before I fall back wailing. This is
no clean world anymore.
I cannot escape into
amnesia, somehow. I feel every razor,
every bullet. Every burning tree, every
cloud of coal smoke or flame from
a funeral pyre. I choke on how close
and how far it’s all come to settle in me.
The world in my lungs like glass
shards in the agonized air;
joy, shredded, bubbling
as it strangles