Published on September 8th, 2021 | by Katie Hoogendam


Breathing Lessons

My mother died of a lung disease,
one that stalked her 
all my life. 
In kindergarten, I was pulled from class, taken 
to the hospital, where my mother’s lung 
It was too noisy. There were people everywhere.
A man in a coat with a stethoscope said,
“You may lose her.”

And we did, nearly forty years later,
her lungs like well-worn love boats 
finally filling with water.
For the most part, she swam.
For the most part, I became a submarine
while my mother moored familiar 
to the horizon inside of her.
That was her love gift to me.

Now, lungs the world over are filling
and even Earth, her breath is failing.
We’re all flailing, waving, drowning.

In seas like this, one would be forgiven 
for dreams of sinking, drifting
down dark
dropping anchor.
But I have two children.
One would be in kindergarten, 
if such things were open.
Times like these demand transfiguration.

So we mothers become wild mermaids, abandon
submarine notions–
remember what water is for.
We heed our own sirens/our own vast horizons
sprout gills
when we hit
the sea floor.

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About the Author

Katie Hoogendam is a writer, home/unschooling educator, artist and mother. Prior incarnations include radio host and high school teacher. Mothertongue, her limited-run chapbook, was released in 2018 and “Plan X,” her first play, debuted in the fall of 2019. Her work has appeared across a variety of publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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