But How Long Can I Keep It Up? or The Poet Realizes in Writing the Poem that She Completely Lacks a Sense of Moderation

Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?
Mary Oliver, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?”

Oh Mary, sometimes I laugh at how I forget how to breathe
and instead find myself gulping at the air, as if breathing

isn’t enough. I get greedy—want more life, more breath,
as many hours awake as I can have. I forget I have a death waiting for me

and spend all day in the garden pulling ripened tomatoes
from the green perfume of their vines, playing chase

with my children till I’m guzzling gigantic mouthfuls of air,
lungs heaving, legs spent. I knead sourdough bread and leave

it to rise while I make firecracker costumes, rake leaves,
and sweep clean the floors so we can dance and puzzle and build

another wooden train track. And then when it’s dark, I forget I have a bed
and read and write poems and can the tomatoes and bake the twice risen

dough. I greet dawn’s long, pink fingers. I’ve forgotten somehow
that we’re able to breath slow. And what can I do but laugh, Mary,

to see how in my hunger for living I wander in ten fields at once.
I open seven doors instead of one and toss down my inhales instead

of taking deep, nourishing sips. I am so in love I find myself constantly drawing in
bigger and bigger and bigger breaths. I am balloon. I am puffer fish. I am a cell

driven to evolve. I know about the inevitable burst. Still I gulp and I swig
and I praise the rich air, I’m so grateful for every second on earth.


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