Courtney LeBlanc

When they tell you to stop talking about death
in your poems talk about breath instead, how

your father’s slowed, a shallow gulp every
20 or 30 seconds, so spaced out you started
holding your own breath in response, as if the rise
and fall of your chest would drag your father’s with it.

Think about how you breathe when you run,
as the miles stretch out before you and your legs settle
into a steady pace, the rhythm your breath mimics.
Remember the legend about your father racing
his friends at the dirt track. How he took off
his shoes and ran barefoot and kicked all their asses.

Dream of Jason, whose lungs filled with fluid
from birth, how each breath was a battle.
How the pink lungs he was gifted only bought
him another two weeks. Two weeks of tubes and clean
rooms and clutching his hand through latex gloves.

Think of the breath-work you learned in yoga,
the ujjayi pranayama practice meant to mimic ocean
waves. Think of the days you spent with him on the beach,
the sand between your toes, the salt coating your skin
and curling your hair. How every time you watched
the ocean swallow the sun it was a small death –
of that day, of your time together, of your heart.

Remember the last night, how you found your mother
asleep in the living room, your father silent on the bed
by the window. How his breath was the only sound
as the sun rose. Remember how it was quiet, the rattle
had faded, replaced by tiny sips of air until even this
stopped. And then the only sound was the gulp
of your wail.