Kim Latko

Panic

It’s a curious thing,

panic.

It sits in my stomach

and my chest

simultaneously

but high,

like up toward my throat

almost curling into my larynx

like a long-fingered grip.

Only once did I try to explain it to someone.

I said,

It’s like having a husky, fairly-uncoordinated child

bouncing on a trampoline

in my abdomen,

up and down

rise and fall,

but a-rhythmically

like when the heavy silver pinball

shudders off the strobing bumper.

He flails his arms in the air

as he spasms through the tight

space around my heart,

and with wide, dilating eyes

he watches as the crown of his head

springs up and

closes off my airway.

As I gasp, his heavy feet plummet back to

slam against the floor of my stomach.

A curly-haired doctor

with bright eyes that remind me of cherry wood

is teaching me to breathe

through my toes --

to control the exhale

to quell the jumper

to write about it

and to not let it be what I am.

Speaking to the Concept of a Soulmate

When our daughter once asked me

Where her soul was

And I chuckled at her wide, gray-eyed curiosity

And replied

In your feet

You let it go.

Maybe you shook your head

Slightly

In quiet disbelief.

Maybe you breathed –

A wordless sigh.

But you didn’t tell me

I told you so

When she came home from third grade

On a windy, November Thursday

Crying

Because Amanda and Thomas and that kid by the window

mercilessly mocked her confident certainty

when she declared to her class

that our hearts

grow, surive in our shoes.

It’s why barefoot isn’t allowed,

she had proclaimed

with all the assuredness of a girl

whose mom said

so.

You are my right side counter-balance,

the weight that pulls me back to center

when I sprint out on my tightrope

so fast and so utterly unaware

that I am listing so far to the left that my

ear threatens to graze the dry earth below.

You are a deep, deliberately-slow in-breath

that calms the speedway of my racing heart.

You are the logic of the if-then

that orders the chaotic scatter of my unspooling

sensory images.

You are

brushed flannel

cool peppermint

and the warm cup of coffee in the chll of 5 AM.

And you are the gentle smile

that puts our dismantled daughter back together

with quiet words

and simple truths.

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