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Poem: They Could Almost Breathe as One

By: Kyle Hemmings

Step mother

Her new step-mom keeps losing herself in supermarkets, especially in the aisle that sells kitty litter or retractable dog leashes. She loves little dogs & homeless cats & admits freely that she herself might be verging on extinction. She tells Zin that she once dated a man who hated dogs, who used words like chain saws, who grew a double head in the night. How did you know who you were talking to? asks Zin. Do I know my right from left breast? replies the new step-mom. She’s a chain smoker & coughs into her own oyster soups, her fish stews made with snapper or grouper. Zin dreams of being food poisoned by fish that can no longer breathe. The doctor says only a lung transplant might save her. At the hospital, Zin brings her brownies that crumble like her too-skinny girlfriends who are always laughing at their pigtail knots that keep coming undone & leopard sneakers that smell of feet feet feet. Zin brings her vignettes of her silly boyfriend who keeps crashing his bicycle into walls, who sleeps with a set of stereo headphones to block out the night. Or she brings her warm pretzels that leave zigzag salt trails over the bed sheet. Zin says I’m going to give you my left lung. I think it’s the better one. Don’t ask me how I know. The step mom asks for a cigarette. She’s puffing, performing the pursed-lip exercises the nurse taught her. Later that night, she stops breathing. Zin calls her boyfriend to tell him that she had a dream of the doctors removing the wrong lung, of losing a sea of salt-water & blood, of her dying in the step mom’s arms. Perhaps dense in his own dream, he doesn’t pick up. 


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