Take a Breath

Here is my mandala in progress. It shows the circular set of scales that I drew in the Lady Justice redepiction, but looking down from the top. The nest woven around it has this poem that I wrote, that I thought might be fun to share:

Take a Breath

Take a breath
with each of the children sleeping upstairs.
Take one with each of the neighbors
who are getting ready for work.
She is brushing her teeth.
He is fixing coffee.
Somewhere on this street, someone is coughing.
Take a breath with him.
Somewhere on this block, an exhausted mother
is sitting with her energetic infant, wishing for sleep.
Take a breath with her, and take another
with her grinning, gurgling child.

Somewhere in this city, a man is lifting weights.
Breathe out with him as he pushes out the bar.
A woman is in labor. Breathe with her.
A frail man is fighting an impossible illness
and is close to losing.
Take a small breath.
Take a small breath.
Take a small breath, with each of them
Who are barely breathing.
And with each of them who are sleeping.
And with each of them in their cars,
thinking of the things they think
to begin their day.

In the next city is a husband at work.
He’s on the phone. Breathe with him.
Somewhere, at this very moment,
a baby’s lungs fill with air for the very first time.
Take a breath. Look, here is another!
And breathe with the mother,
and breathe with the father,
looking into the new child’s eyes
and wondering who is there.
Somewhere, at this very moment,
Someone is curled up in fear, dreading
the coming day, the next moment.
This one, too, barely breathes.
Someone is praying.
No matter that she is not your religion.
Take a breath with her.
Someone is eating.
No matter that you do not like that food.
Take a breath and savor its aroma.

Now for the hard part.
Someone is being raped and
Someone is doing the raping.
Take a breath with each of them.
They were both the new child, too.
Someone is nervously drinking a cola for breakfast
Breathing out through cold fizz,
carefully ignoring the .38 in his sock
and his plans for later today.
Someone is breathing in tobacco, someone cocaine.
Go ahead, breathe with them.
Don’t pretend that you know nothing
of the gaping hole that this one and that one
don’t know how to fill.
Someone behind bars is almost conscious of your breath
because of how it tastes of a different life.

This one chokes on anger and grief, and tries
to refuse to breathe.
This one exhales a litany of rage.
Join it anyway. Now this breath,
it smells of socks, and this of mold,
this of rotting food, of stale urine, and this of shit.
This smells of hunger, this of bitterness, and this of hate.
If only you could breathe into them with springtime,
earth, cut grass, or molasses cookies.
And here is a grandmother breathing springtime,
earth, cut grass, and molasses cookies.
Sometimes this child walking slowly to school can smell them.
Sometimes the pedophile and the pimp can smell them.
On occasion, the child locked in the hotel room of
onion sweat and cigarette butts can remember them.
Breathe with them.

There is a diver climbing back onto the beach
tasting of salt and fish. His body is tuned
to the roar and whisper of waves.

– Kim Vanderheiden

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