I Cannot Breathe



I write about

fish gasping for oxygen.

I am diagnosed

with emphysema.

Fish and woman,

are inextricably linked.

My parents

cigarette fumes

certainly paved the

way for years of puffing

the magic dragon.

I own my part,

But do not choose to blame.

My plight is not

the whole story.

The trees are burning

The earth is on fire.

Even here in the North Country

polluted south winds

breathe filth into the air.

In summer the sky is thick

with noxious particles

not present

50 years ago.

Whole forests-

precious lungs

of the earth

turn to ash.

Smoke clogs my lungs

Factories spew CO2

Cars belch black smoke

Pesticides congest.

We are dying

for lack of air.

The North wind sighs,




Working notes:


I recently received a diagnosis of emphysema that frankly shocked me. 45 percent of my lung capacity is gone. Although I knew my body had been struggling because I wasn’t feeling well and that my oxygen count was low I couldn’t get a diagnosis from the doctor that treated me – my symptoms were ignored – and eventually I was told to see a counselor. It was all in my head…


Talk about neglect. I have had this disease for approximately a year – perhaps a little longer.


I certainly am culpable because I smoked cigarettes as a young adult, but this is not the whole story. We are also dealing with an enormous amount of air pollution that is clogging everyone’s lungs, not just mine.


My disease is only a symptom of a much larger problem. One solution would be to plant billions of trees. As it is now we are destroying the same number of trees that could help us to breathe, trees that could clean the atmosphere, trees that science has proven lower anxiety levels, trees that could sequester CO2 to help us stem the flow of climate change.


Trees could help if we would only let them.