There are little creatures in my lungs and they just don’t wanna leave. I know, I know, close to my heart, dear ones, but please leave; there are other planes out there with wider expanses than my modest alveoli.
Sickness lifts the tops off of cans and leaves me staring into the sky thinking there might be something I am missing on all of the other days, in other states-of-being. Something about the fighting within matching some spirit of fighting on the outside. My senses lean back and place their feet on the vein-ways, take breather. Swaying daisies, what else can we do but go with it, have our way with how the Universe pulls on the tops of our heads?
The chest breathes without notice most of the time, then, suddenly, an ache or tightness. Other senses take over. The brain maps take a nose-dive and rearrange their streets.
What? The chest hurts? Rewire smell, touch, hearing, because breathing maps have less property to go about.
Walking out of the hospital, the green of September deepened, as did the blue above.
Are your lungs about to collapse? I asked the pine.
Just wait, said the pine. Any moment now, your memories will scatter like soon my leaves.
A strange tingling from the nebulizer rest on my hands. Dots against dot-strangers.
Pine, I said, does your heartwood break down, your lignin gasp and take it on themselves to collapse? Why are you following me in dreams?
Nothing stays that settles on the frontal lobe, and you’re about to remember something that hasn’t laid its hands on you in a while.
Your smell does that to me, I said. Tell me more. What will I remember that stays settled in the occipital lobe? My hands, see, bugs of sort going over them.
Later, I read a magazine article about the last days of Patrick Swayze’s life. “He wanted to die at his ranch in New Mexico, but Dr’s wanted him to stay in California.”
Once, I held the stump of a great pine as a girl. So tight. Remember this land, I thought.
I wrote, frantically in a notebook, 12 years old, about the land was a heaven. A heaven. I didn’t want to leave.
Some chord in a water-trough spun out and licked at my ankle. The river running through the ranch property spoke in thousands of tongues, more tongues than rainbow trout.
See that line, my dad said, it’s got one, a big one in a fight. Pull!
I leaned the whole weight of my frame against the rock-banks, tossed blonde into the wind. Dad had a grip on my belt-loops. The thrill of almost falling into the ice-current, coming straight from the mountain’s tips, rushed spotted-blood bugs to my ears.
HA! I gasped. As a lighting leapt, and something gaped next to me, as though a birth from rapids.
Breathe, I thought! But the eye of the trout shocked open in surprise, stayed on the sky.
Can I throw him back, I asked dad.
Take him like this, he said.
His hands, thicker, demonstrated.
Walking back to the ranch-house, I squeezed where the scales dug in, watched the blood out, in, out, in, like the mouth of another being, wanting to breathe.
Years later, at twelve years: This is where I first learned to ride a bike, I wrote, frantically, next to the pine stump, and caught my first fish, I added. Leaned into the ring-stained footstool again. And now, we have to sell the ranch, I ended the entry, crying, grabbing hold of the amputated tree and root system as though I could keep a part of myself here, forever.
I try to catch my breath between a sudden remembering. The bronchitis holds me down. Against the pharmacy floor, I read the magazine article, wondering if the tree stump was still there. How many trout did he catch in the same river? A river I thought, “mine.”
…as though I could keep a part of myself here, forever.
“He wanted to die at his ranch in New Mexico.”
There’s a journal to my grandmother in my room somewhere, from when I was 12.
I went to the roof and watched the sun go down. You know we sold the ranch. I guess it’s about perspective, mom says. But I just ache. It feels like I was really happiest there. I’ll miss Jenny and the horses and climbing Hermit’s Peak. I’ll miss the smell of rain on the mountain and how you can see so many stars because everything is cleaner. Your father’s spirit. I learned how to fish and ride a bike and shoot a gun there. I guess it’s almost more like home. Maybe where I was most a kid, too.”
Hardwick: your prescription are ready.
Help me to breathe, I say to the bags and bottles.
The pine outside said, you will remember the thing you don’t remember, soon. See, the sky and I wave daily, but how often do you look up?
And I asked again, does your heartwood ever collapse, your lignin turn in on its own weight? Air, air, air!
I hugged a stump of your sibling once, in New Mexico. I wanted to hold on to the land, as though anyone could own it.
Go back, said the pine.
I did, do. And I bet so does he, now. I said, while the buzz still crawled on my hands.
From time to time, alveoli find it difficult to move air. Tissue tires. One day, nothing will move. Still. There are dot next to stranger-dots on my hand. Breathe. The land inside.
Picture of Hermit’s Peak from the porch of the house. Swayze filmed Red Dawn in and around the area, which is how he fell in love with the land and, when my family had to sell the ranch, he was the one to buy it.