He rationed his lines of breath,

slowed them down

almost to zero.

It wasn’t so much a conscious action

but he saw it happen,

felt his body caving in – in slow motion.


The phone call about her death

syphoned his lungs,

collapsed his trachea like an accordion,

like a crunched-up car hood in a head-on collision,

and the unexpected news surely shriveled those tiny capillaries

that he had learned about in high school biology,

those minuscule vessels located

in the respiratory system, somewhere,

although he couldn’t quite place them now.

He should have paid attention back then.


A breath came in, uninvited.

Any air, any oxygen that snuck into his body

was a handout from heaven,

an extra minute of life

that he wasn’t sure he wanted.

~ by Cheryl Unruh