How many times had she laid in a morning bed,
trying to match her breathing to the lungs
that worked like bellows just inches away?
In the inhales, she has breathed the shallow,
quick breaths touched with
the smell of cigarettes he
just couldn’t quit--the ragged breaths that
reeked of grease and denim,
flung there over a nearby chair;
the contended, deep breaths sour with the
open-mouth, open-body smell of sex,
or the uneven breaths
catching on love
wanting to be spent or said, but waiting;
lungs pulling and pushing with
the smell of clean sheets, soiled sheets,
and the wide-window odor of autumn,
and the toasted-corn smell of the loyal dog,
his breath quick, even in sleep,
their animal hearts beating in time together.
Here, the yeasty, bready smell of the son,
her own curdled milk smell,
a perfect pair, a pauper’s supper
laid out on linen,
which will need a wash soon,
cleaned of the crumbs spilled from these mornings.
She reaches her hand out to shield the tiny torso,
her fingers curved like a second set of ribs,
finding the heartbeat in her palm,
trying to match the two, mother and son:
she must be calmer; she must breathe,
and know that she is safe in the way
that little heart believes it is safe
in its double-ribcage, floating in the
the white room, the goosedown-packed
comforter warm as a mother’s womb.
A heart the size of a plum stone
that beats like a caged thing.
Her overripe mango of a heart could learn a thing or two;
a hand laid on her own chest
(how long since a hand laid on her chest?)
as if checking for firmness, solidity in that throbbing fruit
could break the skin, and sweet syrup drip down
to pool at the elbow’s crease.
Remember to breathe, remember that, for now,
the world is out there, you are here,
a hand between that hard little heart and everything else.
And though the world would crush it,
recall that your heart, too, has endured so far.
Goddfrey Hammit was born and raised in Utah, and lives in Utah still, in a small town outside of Salt Lake City. Hammit has, most recently, contributed work to Neologism Poetry Journal, The Loch Raven Review, and Riddled with Arrows, and is the author of the novel Nimrod, UT. Website: goddfreyhammit.com
The Ekphrastic Review
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