Countdown

You learn the difference
between not holding your breath
and its opposite— The first takes
a long time, longer than you could
survive what you thought

would only be a temporary lack
of oxygen. The second can mean
take a quick inhale and hold 
that bright little bubble 
of surprise or delight at 

the unexpected: quickly
release it from your mouth
and watch it float, then 
clap your hands upon receipt 
of a longed-for piece of good

news or a loved one's return.
And truly, there are things that take 
hardly any time; but when you're waiting, 
they can feel like eternity— for the light 
to change from yellow to green, the water 

in the kettle to boil. You're old 
enough to remember when flash photography 
meant a little cube filled with explosive 
powders and filaments attached to a Kodak 

instamatic camera. The photographer 
counted Three-two-one! before setting off 
a mini-bonfire of magnesium foil to flood 
her subjects' faces with extra light. 
The sharp pop made you cringe, 

your face contort into anything but 
a smile. And you remember watching  
on the news each rocket launch 
of astronauts into the sky, 
as ground crew voiced 

their solemn countdown from ten 
to liftoff—the heat of burning fuel 
and the whole world exhaling one long 
breath producing enough energy to propel 
our tinfoil-colored craft into space. 

***

Poet's note: I thought it fitting that I wrote a poem involving counting— as today marks my 10th year writing [at least] a poem a day! 

  

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