Being and Breath

After birth, we treat breath as water—
while also omnipresent.
   Each sound
we make with it is a
   sucking or a wailing
for survival.
   Every cell in our bodies
   in infantile
attachment to breath.
   Our lungs swim
in a river of it—
   carried by the current of it,
fearing to drown without it.

This is pneuma
   the breath of the body.

As we grow, we learn the phonemes
   of conversation:
how it sounds to convince
   another to do something
for us or to explain
   to someone why not
to do something
   we find injurious.
Initially we employ
   those simplest yet most
important syllables:
   yes and no.
Later we wield more
   complex verbiage:
like, would, willing, please, stop, don’t.

This is psyche
   the breath of the mind.

When we discover the sublime gift
   of music,
we reveal our innermost voice—
   the utterances that
echo from
   our deepest truth into
others’ minds.
   No matter what genre
we enter by this gift,
   the goal is the same:
to generate harmony,
   to sing—
into the air,
   onto the canvas,
in print—
   of the unity of all things,
not to reduce
   all to one,
but to praise the
   singular beauty of the many.

This is angelos
   the breath of the soul,
the divine message
   of truth and beauty
that is our purest
   existential expression.

With the final breath,
   we loosen our grip on
our own life’s instrument,
   ready to return to what
Hebrew calls ruach,
   Sanskrit prana vayu,
Latin spiritus or,
   how at day’s end,
the old Navajo might put down
   his cedar flute and merely listen

to the canyon winds blow.



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