Breathing Words

I took it for granted, all of it. I own every issue of Poetry Magazine from 1981 to 2008, skip a few and smatter in some 2010. I would lazy-handedly pull them from shelf or bin, whisper them open to a random page and read, then read again aloud. I own chapbooks and volumes thick and thin of Vénus Khoury Ghata, Margaret Atwood, Jacques Prévert. I have years of the Georgia Review, and a few of The New England Review/Breadloaf Quarterly from the 80’s. A few issues of Ploughshares. Not a few issues of Crazyhorse. Rattle. But these are lists, and though laid out lovingly, they mean nothing.

No, I will tell you this, because this means something: I would, lazy-lipped, drink words and roll my tongue over sharp diatribes laid out in three lines, and I, wounded, would reel for the next three stanzas, blood dribbling from my chin. I would curl around quiet moments overlaid with alliteration and a sense of loss like a cat in a sun puddle, soaking in the sound of these words.

These poems? They were air. They were water, food. I never go a day without reading one. But they are not with me. They are packed away in North Miami. I am dancing through Broward County. They are like artwork in a museum and I can’t afford an entry ticket.

Today, I am gnawing off my arm. Today, I am searching for publicly available poems. Prose can only take you so far. The rest is a leap of faith into verse. Today, I am dragging my tongue over internet pages, craving paper copies of poems by Kathleen Graber.

Poems are a need. I need them. I need them. I breathe them. I took them for granted, took space for granted, book space, open, delicious shelves, and rows of poems like fresh peaches to savor. I am starving, now. Will trade food for poems. Speak them in my ear. I will give you the last of my heart.

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