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intermittent apnea of unknown causation

By Doritt Carroll


the first time it happened
i thought i was being strangled
four fingers compressing each side of my throat
no air


have you ever eaten crabs?
first you flip the breast tab up
then you fold the crab back
like the binding of a new book
then the sternum cracks


next the bolts
by which i mean thunder
by which i mean hardware
that clamps a prisoner to a chair
and limberjacks him
like an electric fist


the rules of nightmares
are that you want to scream
but can’t


the rules of not being able to breathe are:


first ten seconds: disbelief
probing yourself like a half-baked cake
this is going to be done
this is going to be done


second ten seconds: gasping/grasping for solutions
a mole running figure eights to escape a cat
in a yard with no holes


third ten seconds:  what you would shriek if you could:

i love you
i hate you
why don’t you notice
i’m drowning?




Listen as Doritt Carroll reads, "intermittent apnea of unknown causation."

Added: Tuesday, September 11, 2018  /  Used with permission.
Doritt Carroll
Photo by Alex Kafka.

Doritt Carroll is a native of Washington, DC, and received her undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. Her poems have appeared in Coal City Review, Poet Lore, Gargoyle, Nimrod, and Slipstream, among others. Her collection GLTTL STP was published by Brickhouse Books in 2013. Her chapbook Sorry You Are Not An Instant Winner was published in 2017 by Kattywompus Press. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and works as a poetry editor for The Baltimore Review. She also has served as Poet-in-Residence at the Shakespeare Theater Company and runs the Zed’s reading series.

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