“Breathing Without Air” by Leslie L. Nielsen

Breathing without Air (Glacialwaters)
Glacial Waters (BC/Jupiter), Direct Digital C-print by Karen Bell

WARNING: To avoid danger of suffocation keep this bag
away from babies and children

Keep this bag close to you, adult:
you are a visitor clutching her coat, a limp crooked accordion-fold fan
against your thudding chest,
the person you’ve come to see has apparently been
moved elsewhere, rescheduled, released—so you wait, rehearsing
what you’ll say
although you are free to go—there are cabs
in the street and a bus stop at the corner,
it’s just a short walk home,
but if you linger—well, perhaps the bag
is all you’ve got.

This bag is a danger to others, it is
like a safari net weighted with rocks on its circumference, flinging
from a tree
onto innocent wildebeests or leopards, it is
a noose, a drowning, a body count—
it might have carried explosives
that, upon exploding, leave behind exotic toxic wind and powders
choking bystanders—
you are watching this on video in a darkened room, your wings
folded, feathertips across your knees.

In the event of emergency this bag is not an adequate flotation device—
you are too substantial, it will not keep your head above
water, it is not a pool toy
but if you are sinking and no one
is around to rescue you, or if you have sunk
into a nosedive, the cracks in the sofa, the river of forgetfulness, quick—
before you lose awareness
put your head in the bag,
listen to what it calls you, the way you hear your name, the name
of your dog, the name your mother chose for private parts,
the name you wish to see on your grave—
take slow shallow breaths and you will survive.




Leslie L. Nielsen, originally from Ohio, immigrated to Denmark in 2013 where she continues editorial work for Poets’ Quarterly and River Teeth Journal. Her poems have appeared in journals such as r.kv.r.y., The Missing Slate and Literary Mama.  She holds an MA in English Literature from The Ohio State University and an MFA in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction from Ashland University. She teaches writing, leads workshops in creativity, and occasionally blogs.

Read an interview with Leslie here.

2 thoughts on ““Breathing Without Air” by Leslie L. Nielsen

  1. Pingback: Contributors, Summer 2014 | Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal

  2. Pingback: Interview with Leslie Nielsen | Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal

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