One hand cinched

               around my throat,

                              my son reaches

               his pointer finger

through my trachea,

               morning breath

                              sucked clean.

               I cough & cough—

how much of me

               he takes, how hard

                              his squeeze & puncture?

               Not strong

enough to open

               a gallon of milk,

                              but enough hard

               to hurt. Unacceptable, I say

and he asks about pain,

               already certain of it

                              & old enough

               to mean it as much

as rain means

               to flood.

                              His touch

               unasked for

gift. Consent

               a thing I teach & teach

                              but cannot show.

               Torrential rain another name

for us both trying

               to come up for air.

                              He brushes

               my neck with fingertips,

You can’t touch

               anyone this way, I say,

                              & he keeps stroking,

               gentle, insistent, letting

fingers fall like water

               into the dip where skin

                              is thinnest, where

               he can feel

air fill & lift the body.

               Hours later, I still

                              don’t know

               how to reclaim

this air as mine.

               We have a tea party

                              of black & herbal, double

               bergamot & lemon

ginger, acid & dried

               flowers tear

                              my throat. My neck

               the gill of every fish

who’s known

               a hook. Each swallow,

                              a tinge, a barb

               a child’s bone lodged

inside my windpipe.

               Hurricane, I call him,

                              feist & furry, but

               love, you have

always been

               uncontainable wind.

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, PhD, emigrated from Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six. She is author of three poetry collections: 40 Weeks (YesYes Books, 2023), Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020), and The Many Names for Mother (Kent State University Press, 2019). Her poems and essays appear in Poetry, Ploughshares, and Brevity, among others. Julia is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Denison University.