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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 2

"Keep It Behind Your Teeth" and "Atlas"

written by



cosset Fear:

swaddle it in heavy blankets,

tuck it in at night like a child.

without your love and care,

the poor dear will starve.

sometimes Fear paints the mind

with colours like crushed, powdered


--reds like the spill of blood,

greens like the harsh bite of lime--

but Fear can’t help it, runs wild

without supervision and an

ever watchful eye.

every hour spent scrubbing away

the mess is an opportunity

Fear takes to splatter lead paint

somewhere else:

poisoned from the inside out;

a toxic spill, a slow death

sometimes Fear leads a merry chase,

the wild hunt from hell.

it laughs and laughs at the

whites of the eyes

the gape of a mouth open to scream.

it pushes the body fast, faster, fastest.

lungs stutter and catch, stop;

the heart’s vibrations echo in

an antechamber chest.

at your knee, Fear learns how to spin

lies like the most delicate

of spider-webs, with silk so thin but

so sticky-strong

it ensnares you each time.

Fear locks the doors so that

there is no escape

--listens at the keyhole while fists

slam against the walls,

shattered bones breaking to

the beat of your terror.

desperation tastes the way

nails on a chalkboard sound and

Fear sets the match for every fire

you have ever died in, fascinated as

smoke chars your prey-easy,

split open heart.

Fear yanks on the steering wheel

until you wreck in the most spectacular

five-car pile-up on the highway

where you am the only casualty

in a war against yourself.

(Burn, baby, burn)


Sadness sits inside your chest,

button eyes and a needle-point smile.

She ropes her fingers around

your quilted heart and

ties it up with knots tight enough

to stop its beat.

Sadness sits inside your chest

and kicks at you with her scissor-feet

until you tear--

a papier-mache body, a

fluttering gauze shroud

shredded into tattered stripes.

Sadness frays your threads

and ruins your spun-silk,

the sheen of luxury fabric

catching light, refracting it,

stripped down to nothing

but what Sadness herself has sewn.

Sadness drapes herself around your neck

as a hangman's noose in

the heft of woven wool.

Sadness pokes her nails into

your sensitive places and

uses them to part your satin-flesh,

drip lemon juice onto your champagne chantilly


a discoloration worthy of tears, of

salt licks on your cheeks, You hold Sadness up on your shoulders,

a brocade veil draping down your back,

and she bows your head

and buckles your knees

and Sadness aches

and tempers

and stays.

Oh, how Sadness stays, sweet love,

and makes a mess of your home.

Kendall Hertia is a poet whose main focuses are disability, trauma, and questioning the self. They use the pen name P.H. Seven and have been writing since childhood. They have been published several times in their college’s literary magazine and plan to continue writing poetry with their usual enthusiasm and dedication far into the future.

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