Breath Work:
Abbra Kotlarczyk
Gently inhale & exhale
Right lung, left lung, blink [1]
Hold on to your seat real tight, hold your breath, keep your eyes in your head, and go on [2]
Meditate on the colour that is flesh void of oxygen, also the
discoloured fruit / fingered out of misted windows / into which I breathed [3]
     for years i stood / in the semeny ginko staring at my hands         believing / in afterlives thinking one day I’d wake into / a new kind of body     like a fish suddenly / breathing air through its eyes [4
When ready, place your right pointer finger in the centre of your forehead, your thumb over your right nostril, your middle finger searching for its erogenous zone. 
o separate(d)/strands of our breath!/Bright silver/threads of spirit/O quicksilver/spurt of fist, scansion of/unfocused eyeball [5]
While here, practice pushing air from the back of your throat up into your eye sockets. 
consider making this your mourning practice.
you don't refuse to breathe do you [6]
the primary medium of poetry is not language but breath, specifically the breath of the poet marrying the breath of the reader. This is the key to its intimacy, its strange physicality [7] 
the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE / the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE [8]
This is (also) why bad poetry hurts so much [9] 
becoming dragonfish to survive / the horrors we are living / with tortured lungs / adapting to breathe blood [10]
 the hellish (but breathable) finitudes of our present conjuncture [11]
Inhale & raise your arms / above your head (...) 
Apply a small amount of  tea tree oil to the tip of a cotton ball (...)
all arrangements require pain (...) 
           Hold the cotton ball up to the opening of your mouth, so that your breath might catch its oil and become dry, brittle, might shrink 
Is not the acquisition of speech based on the ability to fit the words in one’s mouth? To push the lips this way and that, shaping breath into particular forms? [12]
         Slowly, peel your breathing away from its body so that it becomes a tender outlier draped on the floor. Look over at your sculpted breath-skin; attend to it daily. Think about what it means to denature, to render something so alive—antibacterial, antifungal. Are you now: analgesic; anti       - viral?
as you slowly lower your arms, exhale / & pour your pleasure into a crystal vase [13]
           Hold it there, applying a veil of empathic gauze over the mouth of the vessel so that your pleasure can still receive air, but not without effort.
Repeat three times:
As long as the earth continues / its stony breathing, I will breathe. [14]
Smother all illusions, alas
stones only breathe once         a             year. [15]
            Like last night, on the riverbank, between the moss and the / baby’s-breath, where he had kissed her sticky until she cried out from / her chest [16]
Combat breathing names the mobilisation of the target subject’s life energies merely in order to continue to live, to breathe and to survive the exercise of state violence [17]
 If we can inhale/exhale with perfect / regularity, [18]
if breath / is a leash to hold the mind [19]
proceed to attune to all the ways in which your body—
A body can cause almost anything / to happen. [20]
1. Kaveh Akbar, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (London: Penguin Random House), 36.
2. Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (Artarmon: Giramondo Publishing, 2013), 99.    
3. Omar Sakr, These Wild Houses (Carlton South: Cordite Publishing Inc., 2017), 8.
4. Kaveh Akbar, ibid, 42.
5. “Diane di Prima,” The Allen Ginsberg Project, accessed August 13, 2020,
6. Frank O’Hara, “Song (Is it dirty),” All Poetry, accessed August 18, 2020,\
7.Ariana Reines, “Interview with Ariana Reines,” interview by Rebecca Tamás, The White Review, July, 2019, accessed August 10, 2020,
8. Charles Olsen, “Projective Verse,” Poetry Foundation, accessed August 13, 2020,
9. Ariana Reines, ibid.
10. Audre Lorde, “Afterimages,” Poetry Foundation, accessed August 8, 2020,
11. Noah Brehmer, “There is, after all, still air to breathe in hell, Part 2,” Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry, accessed August 13, 2020,
12. Brandon LaBelle, Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary (London & Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 7.
13.  Autumn Royal, She Woke & Rose (Carlton South: Cordite Publishing Inc., 2016), 6.
14.  Kaveh Akbar, ibid, 39.
15.  Fanny Howe, “The Definitions,” Poetry Foundation, accessed August 10, 2020,
16.  Tayi Tibble, Poūkahangatus (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2019), 35.
17.  Suvendrini Perera, and Joseph Pugliese, “Introduction: Combat Breathing: State Violence & the Body in Question,” Somatechnics 1, no. 1 (2011): 1–14,
18.  Rae Armantrout, ibid, 59.
19.  Kaveh Akbar, ibid, 46.
20.  Kaveh Akbar, ibid, 80.
© Lieu Journal 2020