Breathing under water

by Jay Sizemore

~for Bobbi Kristina

A fetus develops gill slits
that are later absorbed.
In utero, the infant is submerged,
lungs under-developed,
thumb in mouth,
oxygen-rich blood siphoned
through the umbilical cord
like gasoline from the tank of god.

Imagine a bathtub filled with amniotic fluid.
A daughter distraught with memory,
her mother found three years ago
in that cold white womb,
proving the finite nature
of her love.

Mother’s lullaby was a rubber tube
cutting off circulation to the arm.
Mother’s voice was the crackle
of hot shit in a spoon.
Mother’s perfume was gin-laced sweat,
breath in those embraces before bed.

Oh, to be that close to her again,
to know her heartbeat
like a plucked bass string,
to feel her hands
blooming like roses
on her cheeks,
to hear her sing,
truly sing, without the rust
of drugs turning her throat
into a storm drain,

she could lure any man off course,
bring a nation to its feet
with songs heard
hundreds of thousands of times,
bring tragedy to the afterlife
by refusing to leave her daughter’s side,

still singing her to sleep each night,
a haunting memory, barely audible,
asking her to wade out into the sea,
to take her mother’s hand,
to warm up her voice for the crowd
in the cheap seats, in the nosebleeds,
and in order to project,
remember to always breathe deep.


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