Wednesday Poem

Oxygen

Oxygen—died on March 12, 2012.
At first, they came in heavy green
canisters. Then a large rolling
machine that pushed air day and
night. When my mother changed her
clothes, she had to take the tube out
of her nose. She stopped to catch her
breath, as if breath were constantly
in motion, as if it could be chased.
I’m not sure when I began to notice
her panic without the oxygen, in the
way we don’t notice a leaf turning
red or an empire falling. One day, it
just appears, as if it had been there
all along. Like the hospice staff with
their papers, bags of medicine, their
garlands of silence. Like grief, the
way it dangles from everything like
earrings. The way grief needs oxygen.
The way every once in a while, it
catches the light and starts smoking.
The way only my grief will die with
me. The way grief will cleave and
grow like antlers.

by Victoria Chang
from Narrative Magazine

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