Anne Myles

Counting Breaths


Counting breaths in my family home
the morning before I leave it.
The thighs press against the woven seat.
The abdomen lifts and falls.

The lake glitters coldly past tall windows
in this belated spring.

In 1918 a family bought this house.
In 2018 a daughter of that family buys it back
after fifty years. While this daughter goes on
to what I don’t yet know,
to what I knew but somehow gave away,
hoping it is not too late to find again.

Counting breaths, each number rises and falls,
reaches ten to start over again.
Quieting the mind as a bird calls,
as the furnace cycles on, as the world
is lost and present, decades whirling round.

A day ago in a box I found my writing
from college, when being a poet was all I wanted.
I tried not to scream for the lost power.
In that time too I tried to watch my mind,
counting breaths in a gabled dorm room
as a same spring moved trees beyond the window.

Thirty-five years later, I can see everything
I want and wonder is much the same.
Trying to count and watch again.
Numbers ticking over, the same body breathing,
though now a voice on my phone teaches me.
What is lost, found, possible
if everything is present?

Let go, go back. Let go, go back. Let go, go back.
At the edge of awareness
breath summons the whisper of a poem.
Breathe out. Open the eyes. Close the door.
A day later, count again and write it down.





Anne Myles (she/hers) is associate professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. She has published numerous articles and chapters in the areas of early American literature. Trained in poetry early on, in midlife her suppressed spiritual life and creative voice reappeared together. Her work has appeared in Ghost City Review, Ink & Nebula, Friends JournalThe New Verse News, Rebelle Society and is forthcoming in other publications.