Respiration Chorus

Jennifer Matteson

The sky above Fresno merges with the sky

above Charleston, Salzburg, Arad,

and other places I have gazed upward into clouds

blown in from across the globe and outward again.


Drafts creep in from places like Los Angeles,

Prague, and Puerto Vallarta bringing with them—

sometimes rain, sometimes flocks of geese,

sometimes large gray sheets of shadows. How far


the words I exhale will travel skyward

before they are taken into another body—

a young woman singing songs in morning traffic,

a boy yelling at his dad from across the lawn.


Some nights, it is possible I inhale the breath

of lovers, not my own, that have slipped in

around doorways from other beds. Somewhere,

a newborn fills his chest with the last gasp


of an old woman alone in her blankets. What you speak

also pushes up and weaves with what floats in

from Melbourne and Havana, Tokyo and Pine Ridge,

and joins in the harmony of our ancient breath.