If Life Means Life Means Life Means Life // Voluntary Apnea

by Kanika Ahuja


after Carol Ann Duffy


I wonder what it means to bend

death, like holding my breath after

my lungs fill up with water.


Voluntary Apnea – a choice, an escape

route – is the moment before the lungs

give out. I give out the place next to


my lungs – my heart a rent free apartment

I’m too eager to sign the lease. You see,

I do not do well with people who leave, and


I know it does not do to dwell on dreams,

on the maybe’s of impossibilities, while

my hopes are tethered to a life raft


that does not have room for me. But I digress.

This is still supposed to read like an apology,

like a montage of all of life’s oddities I am yet


to touch. What I’m trying to say is, there

is peace in the moments after the lungs

give out. We give out pieces of our heart


hoping to find the piece that fits better,

only to wind up with tenants who stick

out like jagged ends. We will always feel


too tired, too ill fitting, too inconvenient

to hold on, but we do it anyway – dodge

death with a deep breath in, and another


for good luck. Good love feels like a glove

that keeps afloat even a drowning heart.

Oh lord, if life means life and nothing else,


let it at least sound crisp like the warmth

of a lighthouse, beckoning all this wreckage

to shore.



Kanika Ahuja believes in the inexplicable joy of sunshines and smiles, hoarding verses on sticky notes in mason jars to be set free like paper boats on rainy days. Her work appears, or is forthcoming, at The Medley, Sidereal Magazine, and Airplane Poetry Movement’s Ultimate Poetry Anthology. She is based in New Delhi, India, and can be found on Twitter @kanika0326.




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