Even the Wind Needs Room to Breathe

Breathless In Byzantium (a poem by Ken McKeon)

The neighborhood was devastated,
To wake and find not all that much
Air around anywhere,
People were breathless
And they wanted
To find out just where
All the air had gone,
Why blocks were chock full
Of cars with flat tires,
Why children were gasping and falling
After playing marbles for only a few minutes,
Why planes, birds, and helicopters
Fell from the sky and never flew again,
Why word counts were way down for gossips and lawyers,
And why not one whistle would blow,

I mean it was beginning to become an unmoving world.
Not having kites was no real bother,
But I couldn’t say the same about butterflies,
I missed the colorful flits and falls,
The gently waverings of wings
As they folded into silence,
But no moths around? I could care less,

And my breath shortened
To brief sips and soft puffs,
I could work with that.
I could get by,
I had a zafu,

But others really couldn’t.
So they followed out the traces
Of the breeze when it simply
Reversed its course
And drew back into silence,
They crept on after its
Backward moving core,

And they didn’t find all that much,
I mean, after all, it was a breeze,
A light sort of wind, a bit of a blow away within
Itself to some sort of a final nothing,

And they followed it back down dim lit corridors,
The found it slipping away
Into the dry ashes of fireplaces,
Into the dead smells of dresser drawers
That had been closed for decades,
They traced it into graves,
Into shriveled up worms,
And in each and every sought out place,
They found nothing but a placeless-ness,
A non-dimensional sea of nothing at all,
Though there was a sign
On a nowhere wall
That fronted a no building,
Which had a no lawn and a no garden.
And the sign did not say that
The exhale crew had gone on a break,
And they had left no word to nobody
About just when they would not be back.
It was unsigned not Fred.

And the search party’s lead
Summoned up somehow the strength
To shout out these few words:
Fred, for god’s sake,
If you’re not dead, exhale.

And then we barely heard a one word reply: No.

And with that word a stirring
Began shoving up from nowhere,
And unseen seas rumbled into being,
With ice floes and polar bears,
And archipelagos full of marmots and flamingoes
Broke out in sandy ice caps, and there was
A whole lot of shaking going on,
As piano keys began to mate with cigar bands,
And timid toadstools lined up at bathhouses in Brooklyn,
And fireflies danced out of sneezes,

And Roy Rogers appeared in the sky above Dallas
And started up the stars again and the moon,
And everywhere reassembled, and everything too,
And children played outside for hours,
Until they got sleepy and began to purr
And then they went inside to their cuddle up rooms
And softly snored the night away,,
And in the morning
The month of June was back and Spring was everywhere.

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