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by Anessa Rodriguez

Breathe in, breathe out,

feel muscle expand, lungs fluttering like tissue paper

as oxygen enters the caverns of your chest.

Sounds and words that aren't yours

jangle like loose change at the base of 

your throat and you hadn't always been like this,

          hadn't always had to choke down the words and

          grief of others.

Here, they had said, take this

dropping pieces of their sorrow

into your outstretched palms.

You tremble, feel their grief

cut into your skin. Okay,

you say, wipe bloody palms

on the hem of your shirt,


The low, heady drone of a dial tone 

crackles  beneath your skin,

curls beneath your tongue and

buzzes against your teeth,

paints your mouth the color of negative

space until each breath

tastes of desolation.

At dusk you watch dying sunlight

spill onto your hands and turn them to glass,

watch red light bleed across your chest,

cutting through and out as if

you were never really there

at all.

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