Steady Breaths

A friend mourns a relationship
that’s not yet dead. She’s determined to work

through it. That’s how I feel when climbing
a mountain in the rain, swallowed by clouds

the entire way to a viewless peak. At the bottom
of my pack, I bury any disappointment, and convince myself

I do this for my love for hiking. The exercise
is good for me. My silent advice to her

is some things should just be easy
and enjoyable. I find so much comfort

beneath the brim of a sunny day,
meandering through the paths of the bunny park

which no longer actually hold any rabbits
because the city believed it to no longer be a suitable

habitat for them to dwell in. By that they mean
they killed them, so it was a prettier place

for picnicking families. Your child won’t pick up
a pellet and try eating it for dessert. Your dog won’t return

to your table with a limp gift in its fervent jaws.
We like things to look a certain way. To be rugged,

but maintained. Clean. My friend tells only me
of these problems with her relationship. Hidden

like the park trucks in which city workers tossed bodies
of rabbits before they could decompose. The area

flagged off with sharp tongues
of yellow ‘Do Not Enter’ tape.

We all want people to think of us
as perfect examples. When hiking, I’m passed

by tight smiles and steady breaths, the appearance
of ease. Mustn’t let anyone see

the blisters burning like planets on your heels,
the breath clogging your throat like hair

inside a drain. If people were more open
about their issues, maybe they wouldn’t feel

so suffocated. For six months, I told no one
I felt down. I was too embarrassed to use words

like sad or depressed. When pieces of myself
broke off, I swallowed them with water. I stopped hiking

and going outside. I let the television run
on mute. Friends asked if I was busy, and I said

yes. Then spent the night in darkness
doing nothing. I didn’t smile once

through an entire concert, and driving home
afterward, I told you everything. This

is what has been decomposing inside me.
Please help me

get rid of it. I am still working
on being myself again. My friend, too, continues

working through her relationship. In minor ways.
Ways that cannot be seen. Like skin cells

consistently dying and regenerating.
Healing, all of the time.

Posted by Halle Gulbrandsen

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