Pa­trick James Er­ring­ton

There are Times I Think, If I Had To, I Could Breathe Wa­ter

The London Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Some 428 mil­lion years ago, Pneu­mod­esmus new­mani, a species of mil­li­pede, evolved open­ings along its body that al­lowed it to ex­change air, mak­ing it the first known an­i­mal to leave the sea and live ex­clu­sively on land.

How many times did you as­sure me what’s past is present, al­ways, in what we do? But I feel so lit­tle

of you now as I eddy in the aisles, the sec­ond­hand, su­per­mar­ket air, ab­sently turn­ing over

pro­duce in my palms, av­o­ca­dos, a pear, press­ing for bruises, soft­ened spots, ev­i­dence of some past

con­tact. I squeeze a lit­tle too hard: my proof, I guess, to the flesh that I ex­ist. I may not ex­ist

in the things you do now but the things you do re­ally should still colour me, be livid to the touch.

I should wake to them, ev­ery day, like your hair on the pil­low. They should stop up all the drains…

To­day, I took the train north from New­cas­tle: a gasp of net­tle, of aspen be­fore the long sigh of sea, a lung

like a wet sail, gulls slipped off the glass like rain. And then that strict mea­sure of the sta­tion, streets

feed­ing to a fath­omed ceil­ing I still and sleep be­neath, echo­ing with mo­tion, sea-foam rolling in my blood.

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