The Long Exhale

by Christopher Clauss

I will not die
while I can still hear her say,
while there are plans for family vacation
languishing on the kitchen table,
dandelions in the yard waiting to be blown

There will be no slipping quietly
no tolling of bells to be pondered

Her dresses are pink and twirly
the way she likes them
She will not be pleased to wear formal black
to sit quietly and not play by the coffin
or pluck petals from each bouquet

I will breathe
whether lungs consent or refuse
There will be pictures of us
taken tomorrow
moments next summer that will etch themselves
into our eyes
traditions that we will start when she is older

and she will learn to carry on
the way I learned to carry on
to close our eyes
and remember

Christopher Clauss is an introvert, Ravenclaw, father, poet, and middle-school science teacher from Keene, NH. He has represented New Hampshire six times at the National Poetry Slam as a member of the Slam Free or Die poetry slam team. His work explores the bliss and turmoil of faith, parenting, teaching, marriage, and community in rural New Hampshire. Christopher’s poems have been published in Gingerbread RItual, Bombfire Lit, Slamchop, and Recipes for the Resistance from Pizza Pi Press. His mother believes his poetry is “just wonderful.” Both of his daughters declare that he is the “best daddy they have,” and his pre-teen science students rave that he is “Fine, I guess. Whatever.” Karen Shimizu is not fond of writing bios. She loves to draw, paint, cook, garden and play cello, but does none of those things professionally. Professionally, she is the executive editor of Food & Wine magazine. She lives with her family in Birmingham, Alabama.

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