Asthma in Summer: Family Vacation at Virginia Beach

        The oppressive night
like a blanket. Layers
        of wetness on
my bronchial tubes, my
        limbs; my
husband’s body
        ​on top of me. I
want to walk out, to the bay,
        ​the ocean, to a
mountain, to a place of
                 In my dream,
men keep women’s
women’s souls, in
        ​little jars along
the mantel, and it makes it so
        ​​much easier. Then
the women hold the broom,
        ​​the fork, but
not the knife. At Kokoro,
        ​​the Japanese chef
tosses it in the air—and
        ​​catches it.
                 My children.
The sticking point.
        ​​​I remember their
babyhoods in this little
        ​​​house. Each cried to
be let into my bed. Tonight,
        ​​​the older one came
to sleep with me. Her
        ​​​sunburn hurt. I held
her hand, then gripped
        ​​​my rosary, praying.
How will I sleep? Wanting
        ​​​to walk out
as I do, the dinners,
        ​​​​the nights out,
the purple pedicure. These will
        ​​​​prevent the questions.

Where does the energy
        ​​​​come from? The
longest earthworm, five feet, in
        ​​​​Australia, may be
energized by alluvial ooze. But
        ​​​​who knows how long
it languishes under there
        ​​​​waiting for a
sea change, a change in
        ​​​​the upper weather
so it can come out, move
        ​​​​under the sky? A
woman found it. She dug
        ​​​​for a year. She
knew it was down
                 Dinners, lunches,
clothes, cappuccinos. Search
        ​​​​if you want, but don’t
find it. … I gasp for air. I
        ​​​​search for that
hard, bright thing at
        ​​​​night. Walking
the dog, I see my stooped
        ​​​shadow in the
        ​​​​like my father’s.
Or jogging
        ​​​​in daylight—the
hat, the lurching legs. I drive
        ​​​​up to a gas station—
what a relief, a
        ​​​​long blue sign with
white letters, “Self”—available
        ​​​​at the pumps. Little
selves, little yellow-winged
        ​​​​souls, fly around, close
enough to pull from
        ​​​​the air. I rest
there, holding the nozzle,
        ​​​​guiding it into
the gas tank, the hole.

This poem is from Dana Roeser’s first book of poems, Beautiful Motion, winner of the Morse Prize (Northeastern University Press, 2004). Her other books are The Theme of Tonight’s Party Has Been Changed, winner of the Juniper Prize, (University of Massachusetts Press, 2014) and In the Truth Room, winner of the Samuel French Morse Prize (Northeastern University Press/University Press of New England, 2008).
*Photo courtesy of Phong Nguyen.
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