Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2020: Notice Breath

for Julia


Notice Breath, my yoga teacher says.

It’s the year of Corona and I take her class

in New Jersey from my house across state lines,

and what I notice today is the lovely unspecificity.

Not notice my breath, or hers, just breath itself

moving unhitched, animating each of us.


One friend with the virus describes

a burning like inhaled chemical fumes.

Another, a pressure like a cheetah

chose her ribcage as a place to rest.

So, yes, these days I notice breath

the way you’d notice a bouquet

on your scarred kitchen table, gathered

bursts so bright at first it’s easy to forget

they’ve been clipped from their roots,

their fading not even all that slow.


Mother’s Day, I watched as two teenage girls

sung a hip hop love song to a masked and gloved

woman on her porch. They stayed on the walk

and I on my side of the street,

but when their song ended, the mom, or aunt

or favorite neighbor, crossed the divide,

took those girls in her arms, deciding

the feel of their heat and heartbeats and sweat

was worth daring the beast for once.


Every day, we’re made to weigh it like that,

sucking in our breath, letting it out

against paper or cloth,

noting its warmth as we do.

Recording provided as part of Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020. Used by permission of the author.

Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2020 Winners

Welcome to the Poetry Archive Now! WordView 2020 Collection. For the first time the Archive opened its doors wide to poets from around ...

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Ona Gritz

Ona Gritz's books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Ona is also a children's author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.


A special thank you to our WordView 2020 poets.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Imtiaz Dharker, says: “The hundreds of entries we received blew in to the Archive like a breath of pure, unpolluted air from all over the world, revealing something of the time we are living in, some telling it straight, some slant. It was exciting to check in to the Poetry Archive’s Youtube channel every morning and come upon one unexpected voice after another."

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