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poetry Poem with an Ear Pressed to the Ground

“So much of this last year has been about breath and breathing,” writes the poet Kindra McDonald, referring to respirators and the words “I can’t breathe.”

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Poem with an Ear Pressed to the Ground

By Kindra McDonald

That it would come down
to the science of breathing

how the lungs receive oxygen
how a pulse becomes stilled

that it would come down
to the compression of an airway

somewhere between the diameter
of a quarter and a dime

shallow breaths the equivalent
of surgical removal of the left lung

trying to breathe with fingers and knuckles
under the force of 90 pounds of pressure

like sipping air through a drinking straw
that it would come down to 12 peers

in chairs palpating their own throats
to feel the pulse beneath their probing

fingers, the tender skin indent
the metric beat of pumping blood

an ear pressed to the ground
prone and pleading

all of us needing the one
who we all came from

who held her breath
spent and waiting

for a newborn to cry
to breathe with life.

Kindra McDonald is the author of the books Fossils and In the Meat Years, (both in 2019) and the chapbooks Elements and Briars (2016) and Concealed Weapons, (2015). She received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She is an Adjunct Professor of Writing and teaches poetry at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, VA. She serves as Regional VP of the Virginia Poetry Society and was the recipient of the 2020 Haunted Waters Press Poetry Award. She lives in the city of mermaids with her husband and cats where she bakes, hikes, and changes hobbies monthly. You can find her in the woods or at