Notice Breath by Ona Gritz

Notice Breath

for Julia


Notice Breath, my yoga teacher says.
It’s the year of Corona and I take her class
in New Jersey from my house across state lines,
and what I notice today is the lovely unspecificity.
Not notice my breath, or hers, just breath itself
moving unhitched, animating each of us.

One friend with the virus describes
a burning like inhaled chemical fumes.
Another, a pressure like a cheetah
chose her ribcage as a place to rest.
So, yes, these days I notice breath
the way you’d notice a bouquet
on your scarred kitchen table, gathered
bursts so bright at first it’s easy to forget
they’ve been clipped from their roots,
their fading not even all that slow.

Mother’s Day, I watched as two teenage girls
sung a hip hop love song to a masked and gloved
woman on her porch. They stayed on the walk
and I on my side of the street,
but when their song ended, the mom, or aunt
or favorite neighbor, crossed the divide,
took those girls in her arms, deciding
the feel of their heat and heartbeats and sweat
was worth daring the beast for once.

Every day, we’re made to weigh it like that,
sucking in our breath, letting it out
against paper or cloth,
noting its warmth as we do.


Ona Gritz’s books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, and elsewhere. She and Daniel served as poetry editors for Referential Magazine and co-edited More Challenges For the Delusional, a writing guide and anthology featuring prompts by Peter Murphy. Ona is also a children’s author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.

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