Writing the Apocalypse: To Breathe Again

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.

Celebrating at a book party. | Photo by Johan Vipper

To Breathe Again | BY PUMA PERL

The intercom woke me at 5AM.

As terror turned to hypervigilance,

I dove into fight or flight mode.

But I’m too high up for flight

and I’m too old to fight.

Maybe the zombie apocalypse war

had begun; I pictured myself

huddled by the door in my cut-up

Rolling Stones shirt and pajama bottoms

as the locks and chains fell away.

Diva at the door. | Photo by Puma Perl


Why was I so scared? Bells ring,

nobody comes, in fact nobody came.

Maybe, because the few who loved me

are gone, especially Diva, who

wasn’t much of a watch dog because

she thought everyone who knocked

was a long-lost friend; she’d only

barked at five people in twelve years

and one of them was Rick.


In the absence of love,

in the wake of recent losses,

on the precipice of the paranormal,

I’ve no idea what comes next,

after a year of nothing coming next.

Except another day where the best

you could hope for is nobody dying

and no world war starting; but still,

people die and leave someone empty

Love. | Photo by Puma Perl

and the world is already at war.


Two shots down and where to go,

what to do, who to see?

Maybe I can travel again someday,

but my dentist owns my plane tickets.

A road trip perhaps, but my mechanic’s

got the gas; will there be shows to do,

concerts to go to, parties to attend?

Luxury problems, all luxury problems.


And when you get down to it,

almost everything is a luxury problem.


Except for breathing.

Because when you can’t breathe

there’s only one thing to want

and you want only that one thing.


To breathe again.


© puma perl, 03/18/21


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.

Last dinner in Prague. | Photo courtesy of Puma Perl


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