An Avocation for Breathing

A story with a protagonist whose perspective requires an associative, free-flowing use of language.

inspired by Friederike Mayröcker

vignette i: breath

When I took a course on modern poetry at a university where classes were taught in crumbling brick buildings with decaying ivy and windows held together by glass glue the professor told me that a comma is an inadvertent signal to the reader to pause to take a breath and that by writing long sentences we are forcing our readers to draw in their breaths sharper deeper like they are swimming or more accurately drowning but this isn’t a poem modern or otherwise this is me introducing you to who I am so I’m sure you’re asking who am I why is my story something special but it’s not it’s not I don’t know how to convince you otherwise but that summer I turned nineteen my breathing was sharper deeper and I thought I was drowning but instead I was swimming yet no-one told me that I was in a hotel pool not an ocean like I had come to believe and every time I tried to swallow everything shimmered at the edges like a dream sequence or a hallucination but I was not dying I was not dying and you told me I was beautiful I was beautiful but I thought those were just words you said to a corpse because I was so sure I had said the same thing to a body in a glass case in a museum near Pompeii because I was so sure I had said the same thing to my grandfather’s body in a cherrywood box in a funeral home down the street from his empty house but no one told me no one told me what you’re supposed to say when someone dies but I was just a child the professor told me that a comma is an inadvertent signal to the reader to pause to take a breath but we’re not breathing are we?

are we?

vignette ii: love song

He asked me if I only write sad poems like elegies or church bells with missing clappers but I know I’ve written happy things whether they’re memories or fiction I’m not sure but this isn’t just a collection of all the times my heart was an explosive and detonated too soon and I hope you’re remembering to breathe because all of this is building up to a climax that’s not all that exciting yet I want to be the vial of peppermint oil that invigorates you when you thought you were dead yet I want to make you laugh so hard you feel like you can’t breathe but I can’t believe I’m jealous of a ghost and yet my memory isn’t what it used to be but I keep reading articles about our shrinking hippocampus and our galaxy expanding faster than it should and books about false memories like that will stop the onslaught the ravaging of my mind by that plaque that destroys but I guess you don’t realize how scared I am of forgetting what if I call you by the wrong name or what if I offer you a honeysuckle flower and you tell me it’s calla lilies and daisies you’ve always loved and I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is a love story even though it doesn’t sound like one because all I’ve wanted all I’ve ever wanted is to be your home and to be the vials of peppermint oil that invigorate you and yet I’ll write you poems until my ink well dries but he asked if I only write sad poems but isn’t love just a sad villanelle or a brokenhearted sonnet?

isn’t it?

vignette iii:

are you still breathing?

are you?

vignette iv: lungs

Anyone who knows me knows my poetry is a catharsis and hears the truth veiled underneath the metaphors and listens past the rustling of tree leaves and knows there’s more beneath the surface and knows I’m more than my past because if you just look at the faded Polaroids and old cassettes you will see one version of me but there are so many layers so many layers like when you’re painting and you wet the canvas and layer one coat of acrylic over the top of another and some kind of masterpiece emerges and this is what it’s like to live some days I’ve heard neurodivergent voices refer to it as “masking” and while that feels applicable I wonder where does the mask stop once it adheres to the flesh because I feel like I’m crafted of papier-mâchépapier-mâchépapier-mâché and glue and I’m afraid to peel back the mask because what if what’s underneath is ugly it is ugly isn’t it and I’m afraid because people are often repulsed by what they don’t recognize and if I don’t recognize myself in the mirror does that mean I’m a monster and are monsters even capable of breathing when he stitched a man of mangled flesh and confiscated organs did he know he was building a monster and were those recycled vintage lungs of his creature capable of breathing because I forget to inhale and exhale some days because I forget to breathe some days because I forget to be human some days and am I a monster because I always told myself I was a Russian nesting doll but I forget to breathe some days and is this my punishment for being a bad daughter and am I a bad daughter because my mother often told me that I was a thorn in her side and thorns don’t have lungs

does this mean I’m a monster?

does this mean I’m not breathing?

A drabble is a short work of fiction of precisely one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.
from Majesticprompts (via Instagram)

He had vanished all those years ago. All I had left was a pressed flower and an empty pack of cigarettes to remember him by. He offered me a world I could not fathom so I Iingered behind. I guess the dying don’t lie. I promised I’d wait. Last night, he reappeared in a dream only to say I miss you, and that was enough. His eyes told me every story his lips could not, and I told him I dedicated every song to him at every show. I told him about the lightning showers. And that was enough.

from Majesticprompts (via Instagram)

Every time the sun rises out her window, she’s at a split in her story. Autobiography isn’t etched in stone. It is impermanent like fingers caressing rivers or kisses in the rain. Everything is until it isn’t. Everything feels fabled until you see how easily the stories dissolve. They crumble in the rain. She tells stories of her youth about the boy who drew blueprints for a house he could never afford. About the taste of honeysuckle in June. She can change the narrative. She can be the new beginning her children never had. Just run and don’t look back.

from Majesticprompts (via Instagram)

When I say I want to be described as breathtaking, I hope he realizes I mean beyond what can be seen. I hope it doesn’t sound like I want to be the girl in the sundress among a field of wisteria with golden light. I want my words to captivate. My soul to catch on fire. I want him to look at me and see my aura ablaze. I want to write poetry and stories that stop people’s hearts. That makes them forget where they are. Forget how to breathe. My words could be as unique as fingerprints. Don’t forget.

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