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"Now I know to call / this a panic attack."

Published onFeb 24, 2021

Photo by Ewan Yap on Unsplash

my body tantrums
to be heard.
The first time
I thought I was dying;
I wrote a note
that said only
I love you so much.
Just in case.
Now I know to call 
this a panic attack.
Nothing is wrong -
I mean nothing more
than usual, which these days
is a collective meditation
on when to scream
and when to sob
and the jenga stack
of reasons
piling higher, higher,
all wobbly.

First I am aware
of the holy 
church purr of the barred owl 
blessing the night.
Crickets.  The dream- 
shattering scream repeats,
so human you open 
the window
to be sure it is not. 
The central air
pours cold comfort 
into the world, too little
to make a difference -
but the house wants

to equalize imbalances
in pressure, in temperature.
The air flows out, tugging
hairs on my arms
a river wanting to be bound
to roots like slow mud
a river wanting to ferry
the slight things it meets
loving and undiscriminating.
I suck in hard to taste the night
but nothing fights hard enough 
to land upstream. To meet me.

The first time these screams
tore into my dreaming
I called the police,
the operator chirping and chatty. 
Satan weasels, she said, fishers.
Then she guessed my location
within a mile, a cheerful carny
where you can’t see the con.  
Triangulation, she said. 
You’ve got good neighbors.
You’re the fourth to ring in, 
so that’s nice, 
in case of murder.

I am not quite 
reassured by neighbors
or the holes
that hold their shape.
How much can you trust, 
how much can you love as –
I shut the window 
go back to sleep
before color 
can seep into 
the silhouettes, 
before birdsong
bubbles and
boils over.


Shana Ross managed to author a stable life before turning her attention to the page in 2018. She belongs to a coed percussion fraternity and the PTA. Her work has appeared in Iris Literary Journal, Kissing Dynamite, Gone Lawn, and more. She edits for Luna Station Quarterly.


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