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Emails to my Therapist

The Many Delights of Breathing Air

Dear Nicholas, At least once a day I feel greeted by a faceful of new air, air that feels so freshly different from whatever I was used to and already taking for granted. Oblivious though I am to so much, I take regular delight in breathing air.

The new air will be crisper or heavier or moving in a different way or maybe smell of gardenias, pine, cut grass. If it’s soft and damp, I think of it as Wilmington air, in honor of my North Carolina hometown. Most of these airs are nameless, but “deeply” lungfully appreciated nonetheless.

The poem I’ve pasted here–the only one I’ve written in the 56 years since I was in high school–celebrates the pleasures of breathing air.


Connoisseur of Air


Tweed sky over northern isles. the tender cold silts down:

Prized collectible if one’s a connoisseur, a taster of air.

Remember water-weighted atmospheres?

Algae-green, bruise-yellow, Varanasi’s sweating ginger smoke.

Breezes off the Carolina beaches

sweep across paving

miles from water:

Food Lion parking lot strung with flapping plastic flags,

Buy a crate of berries, quart of milk, tendrils by the dozen of savory salt air.

Dogs who hang their heads out windows ride

with ears flying, tongue hanging, eyes watering.

They too are connoisseurs of air.

Bare feet, also, know what’s slowly

swimming past, weaving through the summer grass.

Winds are christened: Ostro, Sirocco, Mistral, Levante.

Dry insistent gales that carry freight of sand: far-flung Saharan grit

to grind between the teeth, dig from ears and hair.

Yet air itself, drunk straight, is soft, subtle, changeable;

can surely break a heart.

Who could manage more than brandy sips

of potent deliquescent air?


Wishing you a light-as-air day,


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  • Judy Carrino
    June 17, 2021 at 4:23 pm Reply

    Now I will think about gulping deep breaths all day! and that’s a good thing.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 17, 2021 at 4:34 pm Reply

      Oh, good! Sips are nice, too, Judy.

  • alcooke
    June 17, 2021 at 4:58 pm Reply

    What a gift! Thanks

    • Peggy Payne
      June 17, 2021 at 5:07 pm Reply

      Thanks, Al. You know some of the very air I speak of.

  • Andy Arnold
    June 17, 2021 at 5:02 pm Reply

    Love the imagery! I have pondered this everyday occurrence, and although it is constantly changing, I am not unaware of its importance and do not take it for granted. Thank you for crystallizing your experience. Loved the Food Lion flags, lol!

    • Peggy Payne
      June 17, 2021 at 5:06 pm Reply

      And you’re in a good spot for island air, Andy! Glad you like those flags…

  • July 4, 2021 at 5:18 am Reply

    Strong images Peggy – when did you write it?

    • Peggy Payne
      July 6, 2021 at 10:00 pm Reply

      Thanks, Bob. I wrote it several years ago. As you know, I’ve long been carrying on about the varieties of air and their charms.

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