I wrote this poem how to sing your way through a panic attack this morning in the kitchen. Although it’s written as instructions, it’s autobiographical. I hope it gives you ideas of how to feel your feelings, grapple with death, and keep trying.
Ming recorded me reading it. We’re staying at a gorgeous cabin in Utah at 5000 feet. The woodstove is behind me. I took off my warm hat and removed the puppy pad, blankets, and Bunny from the chaise longue for the recording. Please see the video at the end.
For a long time my poems were mostly about relationship pain and other interpersonal inner work. It’s fun to finally write about issues that are more public and say more about my values. This poem about mental health and spirituality is the direction I want to move in, with poetry. So I’m happy to share the exciting change with you.
how to sing your way through a panic attack
if your heart does a flippy floppy thing
sometimes in the morning
that scares the shit out of you,
you might try singing.
first quietly, then realize
you can open your throat
and allow more wind
to blow through your powerful lungs.
that same wind blows
through the canyon.
as you sing, ask Mother God
to bless you with life
as long as the earth needs your unique love.
then stand with your arms
raised high and breathe.
imagine life filling your lungs
and all your cells nourished
then feel sorrow stir in your body.
cry–it doesn’t matter
what words might form to explain
what you couldn’t express at the time.
it’s not too late
to grieve your childhood,
the pet chicken you loved,
some previous boyfriend,
a grandparent, a garden turned
back to tumbleweeds and ashes.
it’s not too early either
to grieve your own death,
or this partner more beautiful than anything
who’s still sleeping in the warm bed.
the earth as it is right now,
babies born today will not remember.
maybe your heart will be calmed
to a safer rhythm.
you could go to the emergency room,
or you can sing,
or whatever you taught yourself to survive
into the miracle you are,
making breakfast like anything.