Waiting to Exhale

By Mehreen Hamdany

In measured breaths
I count the days
In wary inhale
Of air and dust
What was once second nature,
A rhythmic in and out
Becomes a labour,
In ticking clocks
A roll of dice
When wayward wind,
Or blemish untold
A doorknob, a rail, or sheet unfold
Could blow my way, that speck aloft
That arrested humanity in choking cough
A distrust seeps
In leaning in
In holding hands
And gather within
A closed space fogged
A blooming condensation
A latent virulence
Of unbridled respiration
One thoughtless moment
And a deep intake
Could cost sweet scents
And all of taste
Or the ultimate payment
With a mortal soul
A life, extinguished
In stifled withdrawal
So I adorn my face
With mask unyielding
Or submit to seclusion
Of guarded shielding
Let Earth take a breath
Free of Man’s smoking fumes
While he is clogged
By what his mistakes exhume
Discard old ways
Or pay the price
Free of greed and excessive vice
But he litters still
That saving grace
Of masks and gloves
And medical waste
The rhythm continues
In plastic pumps
Vents that fill, stunted lungs
Comes a labour
In ticking clocks
Of fractured dreams
There’s no waking from
I know your face
But not the colour of your eyes
The moans of your pain
But not the sound of your voice
In wearied breaths
I count the ways
Balanced on knife’s edge
Waiting to exhale

Mehreen Hamdany, writer, blogger, journalist, based in Birmingham, United Kingdom. 

Artwork by Mahwish Hamdany.

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