by DDMcPherson (excerpt from new novel)
She let her breath sink oily and heavy into the bottom of her pelvis, then drew it up, hand-over-hand, along the center of her body. It made its quiet way into her head. where it spread, tickling the inside of her skull. Her breath touched its tendrils gingerly along this membrane, fine veiny lines of sensation, filaments or root hairs.
Her breath seeped out, drained down her neck and throat as if drinking itself. It whoosed down the tube of middle-ness, down, down and down into a deeper, dimmer space, behind the stomach, behind the fat, slick ropes and globs of guts, the underbrush of organs, those shades. She swam through snaky reeds, following her exhale that was emptier than common everyday breaths. It reached into a basement of itself. Empty. Beyond the urge to suck in.
She lay fallow. Hollow, dry. Then, not wanting to keep on endlessly breathing, she roused from stillness anyway. She lifted the gate a tad, let air ease in, like a secret, like an Unknown. It drew her embers from beneath ashes, took the tiny heat curled in her tailbone, tugged, tugged, as if digging up a resisting root, and swelled with sudden freedom upward, the warmth billowing on a rise of air.
Up the center, up and up the column, up into the winged lungs that fluttered, happy about breath returning sweetened with dark earth and volcanic fire, thick with organ murmur. Breath scattered into alveoli like puppies running on the heath. The chest, from front to back, shouted, “Hello!”, a trumpet of sensation echoing from rim to rim. Finally came a fluting through the throat. Fine notes, swollen with oxygen.
This was a true breath, a felt breath, not a mechanism, but a poem, not survival, but a flourishing. Breath delights in this castle, she knew, in the ornaments, the halls of splendor, the trick wall in the library that opens to a dark back corridor. She followed that story, the spiraling stone stairs. We were breathing there together last night, laughing, trembling, turned in on ourselves. It was an uncountable place, unspeakable. I was lost for a long time. I loved it. I’ll love it again.