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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 1

"My Weakness is Breathing"

written by

Natascha Graham

There is a peacefulness to this pain,

A familiar comfort to the tightness of my chest, reminiscent of childhood, where,

In fevered dreams something to grasp

became nothing at all

A black mirror held up to my white face

This room - a womb of December

The month I was born with shards of ice whiter than I,

That stick in my chest, my throat

So different to my summer sicknesses

Sticky skin and nut-brown all over

Fever higher than the sun in a sky I see only through a window

Where vegetables grow in lines

And my cat breaks the neck of a baby bird, perhaps, while I slip, and sleep

between what is and what isn’t

In my room that is now both bigger and smaller than I can bear

In the kitchen, my Nana makes oxtail soup from the bones of last night's dinner

that I eat with a spoon so big it stretches the corners of my mouth

And I eat squares of thick buttered white bread that came in a white paper bag from the back of a bakery truck

I drink with a straw from the glass bottle of lemonade she bought from the milk-man in his Dairy Crest float

who tips his flat tweed cap to her blue floral dress

While I lay on the sofa, louder when I breathe than when I speak or think

the wheeze and scream and rattle

The tightness that comes

So tight in my chest that

every time I think

I might die,

(and even though I never do)

There is still the gasp, the desperate sob,

the heat,

the sweat,

the coughing until my throat tears

and bleeds the same colour red

as my Christmas stocking

Natascha Graham is a lesbian writer of stage and screen as well as fiction and poetry. Her work has been previously selected by Cannes Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival and has been published in Acumen, Rattle, Litro, The Sheepshead Review, Every Day Fiction, Yahoo News and The Mighty to name but a few.

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