I’ve carried this Eleanor Roosevelt quote with me to every apartment and home I’ve lived in. I want to remind myself that sometimes I need to be uncomfortable in order to remember how to survive and move beyond it. When I find myself in yoga class, upside down or stretched in a position where I am suddenly aware of all my bones, sometimes I forget to breathe. Sometimes I forget that my body is like a machine. Switches often turn off and we often must manually turn them back on.
Beyond breathing, sometimes this frightening activity includes engaging. Walking toward someone and letting them know how stunning their brain is or maybe it’s about entering a room full of strangers or beginning a new job or letting go of an activity or human that is just not right for you.
Eleanor said it best, but I’d revise and say do two things or try out a day full of things that scare you. These are the days when you validate not only your existence, but your bravery.
I have been reminded several times in my life to breathe.
Yoga teacher in blueish-green bandana wrapped around head, pushes on my back to ease me further into a pose and whispers, breathe. It is not until this moment that I realize my lungs are stunned into a pause. As I shift into various positions, I am thinking about every part of my body, yet forget all about my lungs.
A lover fills in my cracks with their skin. With hips like chisels, I am led deeper into the earth. I shake against the harmony of metaphors and suddenly, I hear them whisper: are you breathing, still?
It can be difficult to remember the impact of bones and how they bend without break while stretching muscles into various alphabets and twisting fingertips into smoldering birdsongs. And. Still. Breathe.
My body is a tree turned sideways, sometimes upside down. Seasons change, and I dress or undress accordingly. There is so much swelter, teasing the skin into beads of thunderstorms. I have been breathing for so many years, when is the moment where it just happens without thought. Without memory of how to.
I collapse exhales over the one who feeds me oxygen. We inhale poses of yesterday and postures of tomorrow. Sometimes it is necessary to forget how to breathe to remember how magnetic it feels once you do.
They thought I was asleep, but I heard her scream out at that star that may or may not have been a swollen airplane. She called it another place to live. She called it a high wire pause. Or was that me.
I scrubbed my hands better than I have all year, before I plunged them into my body to rip out the mail. His name is ____________ and full of papercuts and improper postage. We are already in love.
How about we stage a protest this year. Eat only syllables and postures. I will continue to challenge the disobedience of my breath and you can remind me that gender is a disco ball better left rotating.
You owe me a letter. But I will wait for your shadowboxing bellow. As I sit here, sore from an early morning bone stretch, no longer calling tomorrow a clean slate. Instead, a movement of magic.
As you walk through this day as though it were an infinite hallway gathering wisdom from its length, I travel beneath the plaster of earth. Underground, I contemplate how hungry I am for home. An old man once asked me: where is the place I call home?
In that moment, I was sitting with my knees together, surrounded by other writers in a classroom with no windows. Everyone else’s answers could have been found on a map. I could not help to say: My body. My body is my home.
But even as I spoke this, I knew it not to be true. I was still searching for my coordinates. My own body’s map was water-logged and torn. It was faded and almost unrecognizable as a means for being found or locating an elsewhere. However, I spoke this as my answer because it was my hope to feel home in this construction site.
Kazim, I am moving again. Change of address; new route; another attempt at peace. This residence I leave now is cracked like sharp confetti hitting me into bruises and tears. I may need to lock all these boxes and things up into a rented square with no windows as I roam. I need to air out this body until I understand it as whole.
The moon last night pushed through a curtain of clouds and called out to me. REMAIN!
I breathed in its romantic shadows and fierce eye contact. This lover changes shapes each night, but it never tells me to go away. The moon flashes me through this darkness as I begin my walk toward elsewhere.
Kazim, you wrote: the day is a hallway I am/ walking through
I respond: this Brooklyn is a fist challenging / my breath control
When they ask you how you’re doing, tell them you’re working on a master’s degree on breath control. Tell them you’ve decided to start a religion collaged with meditation, masturbation and memory loss. When they want to know about your (latest) relationship, tell them the moon didn’t return your phone call last night, but you are hopeful. When they comment on your skinny, swallow a piece of mandible and show them your indent. When you forget how to collapse, return to the concrete that held you seven years ago and howl toward the one who kept you safe for a night. When they want to get you drunk, slur your way toward an exit sign. When a stranger confides in you that war is everywhere so we must turn ourselves into bullets and charge, remove their weaponry with the sound of your voice and locate the nearest burst of star. When they tell you how sorry they are, ask them to sing a song from the furthest distance inside them. When they need to mourn longer, collect nests and sew one big enough for them to carry their weep away. When they want to know where you’ve run off to, mail them a root of your hair with a type-set message that reads: here. When they walk past you, travel miles to the nearest reservoir and gather its water; maybe they are thirsty. Tell them you are no longer an atheist, rather a belief-monger intent on translating shadows. When they tell you to call more often, tell them you’ve disconnected all your outlets but unhinged all your doors so come in come in come in.