First, do no harm

It will probably start with something that seems pretty reasonable,
like driving on a freeway with your baby puckered
so new, her eyebrows still felted to her hairline.

It is your neck that yields to lassitude first, driving skyward on a bridge
surprised when it unthreads right in front of you
just at its apex, traffic banks back but in only your lane, all horizon blue.

In high school, two of your friends, closer to each other than to you
say the word ‘swallow’ like a pharyngeal spirit board
and just like that, neither can.

Because other people have to drive you now, when you go for weekends away
the husk of pre-sleep is consumed with visions
of the driver in various states of bodily disruption, and you, stranded.

It reaches like the sweaty arms of adoring fans, methodically picking off
a friend, your baby’s bath, the house you tuck yourself inside, work,
eventually words, however banal, come wrapped in a silt of consternation.

In your memory, a place that is constantly mauling itself,
one girl says to the other
I worry that one day, instead of saying swallow, we will say breathe.


Jordan Barling

Jordan Barling is a writer from Melbourne. She is a past winner of the St Martins Young Playwrights Award and studied as part of the Young Writers Program at the Royal Court Theatre (London). Her poetry is included in the most recent volume of Antithesis Journal.

More by Jordan Barling ›

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