Sometimes, 

the ammonium smell 

of the curtains closing in 

comforts me in a way 

only chronic panic can. 

 

From a distance—

peace with a hairline fracture—

the hour turns

from morning to too bright.

My tasks are acrobats; they balance on tall shoulders, 

somersaulting through unchecked boxes, 

tightroping between tight timelines,

and as I watch, 

my to-dos inscribe reminders 

as hives on both arms. 

 

It’s then I smell

the musk, the self-aware air

between those curtains like walls, encroaching, 

steadily expanding, 

commandeering my space, 

and I know it’ll soon be 

unbearable. 

 

I’ll feel 

drapes draw into my cheek, 

I’ll hear the churn 

of rope and metal 

leer in my ear, 

I’ll feel my knees weaken 

with the change in air pressure. 

 

And from there, 

I’m flattened to a dimension, 

my anxieties on each side, 

and I am nothing 

but an inhale and a hold, 

a clenched fist, 

an itchy arm—

and I cannot, I cannot 

look down to a stage floor 

my feet no longer touch. 

 

But from there, 

after drowning applause,

I know the audience will clear

and the curtains will grow weary, 

retreat to digest. 

And my chest will release, 

and my airway will clear, 

and I’ll find my list of to-dos

there, close to the ground. 

And now, with all this space to find breath, 

I am ready to close

the remainder of this performance, 

until the next showing begins.