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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 2

"Striding" and "Freedom"

written by

Gerri Leen


The child watches, midway through the

Labyrinth, as her older—

But not her stronger—self

Strides purposefully

Muttering at the futility

Of the enterprise

A pattern on grass

A contemplative aid

Who has this kind of time?

"We do," the child murmurs

Wanting it to be true

Time smashes against itself and

The child reaches out

Trying to stop what she will become

To make her see, make her appreciate

The moment, the potential

Of every single breath

Because it won't last

Not this innocence and

Not the later relentlessness

"She cannot hear you, love,"

Her oldest self says

Her voice a croak

She stands, hunched and frail

At the end of the pattern

Then hops to the beginning

Old bones creaking but

Surprisingly resilient

For someone at the end of life

"I want to live," the child

Screams, running now

Across the lines

Across time

Colliding with her middle self

The one who cannot look anywhere

But ahead

"There's more to us than progress"

For a moment, she makes contact

Everything stops

The old one laughs, the middle one

Looks around as if seeing the place

For the first time

But the child is frozen

So afraid of the moment's end

That she can't enjoy it

Until it's gone


Moving through the world

Too big, too heavy


Navigating every step

Plotting routes carefully

Through chairs and tables

Never wanting to find

The spot that's too narrow

That makes you back up

A hermit crab trying to look

Like you meant to change your mind

To find another route

There's no grace in this

The school of fish twists and turns as one 

And then there's you

But in the water

There are no aisles

No chairs pushed too close

No people unwilling to move

Who label you "whale" with a look

Yes, whale, walrus

Sea cow even

In the water, fat is good

Fat supports you

You float, you paddle, you breach

You swim far and fast and for once

You're graceful

For once

You're like everybody else

There's no weight on joints long

Tired of supporting the blubber

Of too many lunches and dinners and

Breakfasts and soda

Things that make you fat when

You really just wanted them

To make you feel better

In the sea, lake, pool, lagoon

You float and dream of

Communes living in the water

Human jellyfish, the head, the stomach, the rudder

None more important

None less lethal

All comfortable, bobbing along

A pod of friends beaching

On the shoals of life

Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. She has poetry published in: Eye to the Telescope, Star*Line, Dreams & Nightmares, Songs of Eretz, Polu Texni, The Future Fire, and others. She also writes fiction in many genres (as Gerri Leen for speculative and mainstream, and Kim Strattford for romance). Visit or to see what else she's been up to.

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