Article of Faith

Et tu, Brute.
Brutus, even you.
Don’t tell me it’s not true,
the college city urban myth
that every breath you or I or anybody takes
contains a single molecule of air
expired with Caesar’s dying words.
To me it is an article of faith
that my blood, yours and everyone’s
is salt with two thousand year old oxygen
and, it follows, grains of every sneeze
or yawn or opera that there’s ever been.
Steam from Stephenson’s first Rocket ride,
songs that went to space and back,
each bark and war-cry, each World Cup whistle blast,
Spartacus shouting I’m Spartacus,
Kirk Douglas shouting I’m Spartacus –
particles of these are sherbet in our throats.
And this is where I make observance :
the front row seat in the stalls
for the opening speech of the final act,
at the foot of the soap-box and the busker’s pitch
and in the market, where the man who sells fruit
is zesting the air with his citrus patter.
Here, my lungs are nets to catch
this glitterfall of exhalation
to keep with Caesar’s sigh and Cassius’s kiss.
This cloud of breath’s a borrowing and lending
which links everyone, including me and you.
Do you believe it too ?
Breathe, if you do.

from Hannah and the Monk (Salt, 2008), © Julia Bird 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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