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Jeff Burt

Oxygen Lesson

Bullfrog Tao

Oxygen Lesson

He took a breath in history class and held it
until his lungs started to burn.
He ran fast and long in P.E.
and noticed his legs were molten iron at the end,
calves on fire and hamstrings
like a roof caving in from flames.

He sucked straight oxygen from a cylinder in chemistry
flooding his lung to produce a myopic state,
went blind for a few seconds and witnessed hallucinations
as if they were projected on the screen of his face
constantly reshaping until he blew into and sucked
from a brown paper bag to give the carbon dioxide
that brought him back to a balanced field.

He read about cyanosis, arson,
pyromania, the animal-like nature
of a brush fire that builds its own atmospheric character
depending on the fuel and the slightest change in oxygen,
and that caught in its midst a person suffers first
by shallow breathing to avoid smoke
and thus depresses his oxygen intake
and can cause both bodily hysteria
as well as an oxygen-depleted euphoria
and went to the place called Moon Rocks
where the banded quartz at night
made the rocks luminescent.

When the moon rose over the dying ponderosa
the reflected light struck every tip of grain
and scrub brush with a bead of radiance
as if a million candles had been set on fire
and he paused, watched as the wave came toward him
passed onto the rocks and glowed,
as if the light of the sun had been sealed in stone
and the moon had come to waken it,

He lay on the rocks long after darkness
had quelled the matches of grains
and only the quartz stilled smoldered,
then left, walked the trail seeing tiny flints
from the rocks firing on his fingers and hands and pants,
knew that he was not just an amalgam of dark stardust,
that he could carry this light for the rest of his life.

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Bullfrog Tao

I have come to redeem you, frog,
from the many words written about your dissection,
the perpetual pairing with scalpel,
phallus and desecration,
the inevitable twitch of the jumping leg
and revulsive jerk by the jerks
who made fun of your post-mortem in the classroom.

I do not detest holding you,
feeling your heartbeat in my fingers,
know the right pressure to seduce your fear,
do not induce the short alarming squeal of dread,
let your legs flap against the heel of my hands,
the soft cushions of thumbs,
both of us calm and wary.

One room of my four-chamber heart part dead,
I must learn from you to breathe
through skin and gill and live
with only three chambers croaking with want,
a life of half-submersion,
lacking panic under the surface,
enjoying the air in low-arcing leaps,
meditating on life with my tongue.

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Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife, and works in mental health. He has contributed to Williwaw Journal, Red Wolf Journal, Heartwood, and Sheila-Na-Gig, and previously with UCity Review.

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