Alternate Breath – TJ Wiley, 2013

Alternate Breath


I’m already in over my head

treading lightly, waiting for you

reader, to swim out, join me

where you cannot touch.


But how can you trust me

not to fill your pockets

with the bricks of mourning,

sands of an abused childhood or

an anchor of barnacled love

(so many word-sailors lost to that brine).


These words formed wet

in some waved harbor of Sound

will come to you from a dry page

in a dry room where you haven’t

even thought about your next breath


until now.

But believe me when I tell you

even the bones that hold you up

are 22% water, and doesn’t that

make you just a little wary

of your blue-marble world

which spins and hangs from nothing?


We all begin with a crawl stroke

pulling toward the horizon—

that seam where life and darkness join

beyond our high-elbow reach.

Jump. The sea’s surface cries and sings

at every wave’s white break.

This is why we must learn to breathe

on both sides of our bodies.


TJ Wiley, Freeland WA


Written one year after Teresa “escaped” from Alcatraz and published in Floating Bridge Review, No. 6.  She is a long time swimmer who can be often seen swimming in Useless Bay and Saratoga passage.

Supports parks and aquatics activities on Whidbey Island, WA