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.

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