Exchanging the breath

“Water into water…” ~ D. Bonta

Once, at a lecture on the subject
of exchanging the breath, we were told:
Imagine each inhalation a gift— shiny

ribbon fastened to a river of universal
breath, the whole apparatus a kind of maypole
ripply with grateful energy that extends

like rings around a planet, or a slinky
stretching back in time as well as forward—
The breath you draw into your lungs

bearing dust motes that swirled in a yard
across the globe where chickens scratched and dung
patties baked in the sun and the fiddlehead

fern shed spores lined with the grey
of thunderclouds. There too, the breath
exchanged by ancient enemies and lovers,

their stories drawn on stone in ruins: chinks
in their armor, the space in the wall through which
their fingers met, the keyhole slit in an embroidered

veil… Exhaling, then, supposedly we give back
every animal and plant we ever were, every
soul we never were aware had crossed

the fine barrier of nostril hairs as we slept
or snorted or kissed; stray gnat that windmilled
into the throat, surprising, on a puff of summer air.


In response to Via Negativa: Rain.

Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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