Air is the one element that takes a low
Profile. You are not thinking of debris
After a tornado, or even the slight
Ruffle of a feather beneath the nose
Of your mother to tell you she is still
Alive, though barely. To stir means to kill,
Rushing in fury; to snuff a candle,
Blessing. Faith is a vacuum, being instilled
With a certain evidence of things
Not seen. Try not to breathe for any longer
Than a minute. Feel the burning, the will.
Before birth, your cheeks did not depend
On this. From the rhythm of someone else’s
Breathing you came to count on inhalation
As a muted gasp, while to let go tended
To be a sigh. Your tie to this was not
A noose, but a lifeline. A later ocean
Reproduced this, the intake and the fall.
In a fluid existence the notion
Has occurred to you that this hearing
Is through a glass darkly. One day you will know
As you are known, and call it lung’s devotion.
What you are wondering is why angels might
Have needed wings. For at times your life
Has endured such straits you have pleaded
To be airlifted. You saw a bright light,
In cloven tongues, and then your body rose
An inch and a half from the floor. The blood
In your vessels kept beating to the same
Double time of pulse and temple, a flood
Of well-being in dire circumstances.
The Bible never defined what grace was,
But for once you think you understood.
It is not always so clear. You wish you
Could get your oxygen from a cylinder.
Applying the brakes exerts pressure somewhere
Sight cannot see. At times you almost rue
The invisible was ever dreamed up.
You spend a lot of time doing aerobic
Exercises. You cultivate an air.
Believing in such a claustrophobic
Creed is so stifling you need to ventilate
Like a whale. You wish you could live in two
Elements, and not feel guilty, or deiphobic.
To look to heaven is like taking in breath,
An involuntary muscle. On a moonless
Night, space is more infinite than the stars.
The jet stream is nothing you are aware
Of, but without it there would be no
Prevailing winds. They say you cannot
Commit suicide by refusing. Try
And you end up red in the face with dots
In your eyes. Or, passing out and only
Proving that air is a kind of unseen
Persistence, like a god, both here and not.
from Rattle #53, Fall 2016
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Charles Tisdale: “I have taught literature and language to various age groups and am currently a part-time instructor of Latin and Photography at a middle school in Rockingham County, North Carolina. I write poetry because I believe the ultimate truth is indiscernible, absolute justice in unattainable, but pure beauty is right before my eyes. I do not think I could live without writing poems.”