Fall 2010 / Issues / Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

Trouble Breathing — Jason Bradford

Like Beethoven’s motive

in Moonlight Sonata,

asphyxiation is a common theme

in my life.

I’ve suffered pneumonia twice,

an ailment no one should know how to spell

before 8th grade, hospitalized

both cases.

I’ve fought bronchitis numerous times

after my scoliosis surgery

to correct the 90 degree curvature of my spine.

A concept no one should understand

before 4th grade, but I did, and do.

I looked like an upside-down “L” with a head,

although my mom says I resembled an “S.”

My lungs collapsed like two deflated balloons.

I traced the curtain track with my eyes

as nurses and doctors restored my respiration.

I almost suffocated in the dentist’s chair:

He stuffed cotton swabs between my cheeks

and teeth, to keep my tongue at bay, scouring for cavities

like a Nazi would for a well hidden Jew.

In doing so, my tongue slid down my throat,

and I fell asleep, mumbling,

like in my surgery,

I turned blue, but never returned for a follow-up.

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