Writing the Apocalypse: Breathe

September morning, burning sky. | Photo by Puma Perl

“Writing the Apocalypse” is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.


beneath a purple sky

yellow and orange sunbursts

creep into the bedroom


half asleep, I take photos

from the one available window


the others are blocked

by air conditioners, flowers,

and plants named after dogs


I hadn’t seen colors so intense

in many months and when I’m

fully awake I realize that


morning beauty has deceived

me once again, posing as

a welcoming new day but,


in reality, is a cataclysmic

combination of dust, pollution,

smoke, and haze moving


slowly across the country

while the West Coast burns


yesterday, I laid on the couch

for hours, staring at the ceiling,

unable to move, not knowing

what to do next or how to do it


I closed my eyes and breathed,

counted to ten, and breathed again,

counted to ten, and finally arose,

20 minutes of renewed energy


before sinking back into existence,

depression making me depressed

about being depressed…


what right do I have?


it’s almost my birthday


birthdays are like New Year’s Eve

forced smiles but with cake

Be happy Be happy Be happy

you fucking ingrate eat cake


the dentist’s office pretends to care


Today is a day to reflect, relax, and recharge,

they write, fill your day with laughter!

your friends at @$%# Dental Office


I’m already filled—with wire,

krazy glue, and failed root canals,

thanks to my dentist “friends”


I receive similar messages from Allstate,

Blink Pharmacies, and an audiologist

I don’t recall ever contacting


stop being depressed, advises Joe,

get your head into the show on Sunday


I calculate that I have four full days

before I need to elevate my mood


the day after my birthday

a friend and I eat lobster rolls

at a place in DUMBO,

then I take the ferry home,

one stop to Corlear’s Hook


a woman approaches me

as we walk down the ramp

Are you Miss Perl? she asks

I look around, it must be me


I read your poems every week

and want to thank you, she says

Especially for that one about hugs,

and she sort of hugs herself


she rides away on her bicycle,

I think her name was Maggie


if you are reading this poem,

thanks again, Maggie,

for reminding me that


somebody is always listening,

even while you’re staring at

the ceiling, lost in blank space,

while dancing angels turn to smoke.


© puma perl, 09/18/20

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.

April, overlooking the ferry dock. | Photo by Puma Perl


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One Response to "Writing the Apocalypse: Breathe"

  1. George   September 21, 2020 at 8:34 am

    I love that your window overlooks water and you have an Eastern view of that lucky ole sun with our chemically hued dawns.
    My windows face South, no rise or set, with an unobstructed burning orb generating gleefully received heat 8 months of the year and an unhappy electric bill the remainder.
    I love my NYC sky view too, but, miss seeing trees and water, and can’t hear the birds up here…horns and sirens serenade us both, but no birds.
    I miss birds.
    Thank you for returning to your rising peeks.


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