July Prompt: Breathe

Take a moment to slow down. Choking on air or gulping down smoke, inhaling moments and exhaling experiences. Vital to life but under-appreciated, let’s talk about the involuntary, the unnoticed, the calming and the clarity.


Water Queen with Her Head in the Clouds

Photography by Morgan Harvey

"Here is a triptych of self portraits at the Huron River in Ann Arbor, MI, where I find clarity, a space to feel free, be me, my home."


To My Newfound Defibrillator

Written by Misha Woodward


For the first time in my life,
The phrase: "love is like oxygen"
Actually makes sense to me.


When I think of you, 
Your words aren't ripping out my ribs,
But more so filling my lungs with sweetness.


I am not afraid of hands around my
Your kisses do not bring suffocation.
I am not choking when I spend time with you.


I will admit that you intoxicate me, 
But not in the way where I lose myself.
For as dizzying as you are, I think clearly with you.


You are like the inhaler I never thought I needed,
Teaching my battered soul not to hyperventilate again,
I'm only short of breath when you hold me.


There is no more need to take slow breaths.
The room isn't closing in. 
There is no bag you put around my head.


I swear, you have stolen my breath for the better,
I am not gasping for affection,
I am not constricted by need.


You are the cool air I yearn for
When life gets too damn hot, 
And I am burning from the pressure.


I am stained with your scent.
For once, I can exhale with you. 
My chest doesn't hurt when you're around.


With the fresh calm that you bring into my life,
I am not afraid to love.
And for the first time, I am not afraid to breathe.


Drain You

Photography by Alexandria Dravillas, Staff Photographer



Ode to DMT

Produced by Ashley Taylor



Jagged Jems 

Written by Morgan Satterlee


"Okay let's go."




"What's your first memory?"


Funny, asking him exactly what he was just thinking about, was this ESP? More likely some kind of wild happenstance. One that seemed all too common...

Now he had to take stock of a multitude events in his life, try to categorize them in some whacked out chronology. This was the difficult part. In instances such as this, he was prone to drawing a blank, not knowing where to start. 

It was different this time, a half-remembered image struck out at him through the mental malaise:


Hollowed out mussel shells lining the shore shining bright like brilliant dragon scale.

Water slowly gliding beneath a bridge, gently lapping at a muddy embankment. A circle of rocks, a makeshift coliseum. Two hermit crabs engaged in gladiatorial combat, vying for control of a new home. Residential dispute… 


He looked up at her, locked her eyes, and fresh out of the memory fog, he spoke:


"I remember standing next to a big red wagon. I don't remember if I rode in it or not, I just remember the shine of the paint and the heat under my ass from the sunbaked metal as my mom pulled me to......hmm where were we going. To get a haircut, I think." 


She looked down at him and smiled. His words carried her away to an approximation of his memory, her reflection on my reflection.


Curious, he asked:


"What's that in your eyes? What do you see?"


She smiled even wider and laughed.

"Memory is nebulous but I remember running through a park. The ground was dotted with daisies. I would imagine each one was a large tree and they housed small people swinging stem to stem, leaf to leaf. I would try to avoid stepping on them but after a while I got tired and started pretending I was a giant monster stomping their villages and they were scrambling trying to stop me."


She seemed fixated on the dust aimlessly floating and colliding in a shard of warm light streaming in from the window. Her smile faded. After some time, she asked: 


"When was the first time you realized you were going to die someday? Like the first time it really hit you."


Another image formed in the subconscious static dimension:


A cluster of big black flies, large enough to see the hairs on each of them, gathered in a corner of the living room. A squirming mass of hair and guts congregating by the windows. He wondered if this was a plague, a divine punishment. He wondered if he'd caused it by way of some long forgotten transgression. He thought about original sin. And entropy.


He turned his head in her lap and looked to the corner of the room. No flies. He spoke to her, but he faced forward and seemed to address the room: 

"When I was in high school three people I knew got into a car accident. They weren't seriously hurt so it didn't register until college when my friend, he was a couple years younger, I heard he was partying at a frat house somewhere in the valley. Anyway, he slipped and caught his temple on the corner of a table. One of the people at the party, another high school friend, she said after they wheeled him out that it was the ugliest thing she'd ever seen, all that blood and loose skin. She said it seemed like more skin than a person should have, normally."


There was silence for awhile. He kept staring ahead and then closed his eyes for a few moments. He remembered his friend, his laugh, his smile. She brushed his hair. She looked like Mary cradling her fallen son. Her one and only.


She broke the silence:

"I remember my grandfather came to live with us towards the end. He was ailing and we turned our living room into his room. The walls were yellow and they made me feel sick, sick like him. It became his tomb. He died in our living room. I thought this was funny and I cried. I didn't even realize it was his last breath until thirty seconds after he took it.”


A cloud passed outside, dampening the light coming in. The room grew dark. After a minute of silent contemplation, an impromptu vigil, she returned to the present and said:


"Something nice. Do you remember a time when you felt comfortable and where you needed to be? Where everything seemed right and all you had to do to count your blessings was look around you."


He pondered for a second and his eyes slowly lit up. This made the smile return to her face, seeing him like that.
The image pounced up, waiting for the question to be asked:


The moon ensnared in a cat's cradle of high tension wires, pasted against the wide blue expanse of early evening, sky looking a cloudless mutt of both night and day. Purple shadows slowly stretching over asphalt parking lots. Sparse orange sunbeams colliding with chrome on Alameda. A wedding procession of colorful low riders. It had been a lazy day, nice and fat and pink.


"Lotsa long lazy days back home, wandering the streets with my buddy Mickey, seeing where the wind would take us. Getting tacos and wandering about the newly constructed condos on some sort of substantive buzz, either a bottled booze I'd swiped from the convenience store or from Mickey's ample supply of northern crop."


She asked quickly, in curious excitement, "What's the most beautiful thing you've ever read?"


His expression was wrapped with wrinkles and a mad grin took shape on his mug. He giggled and she shot him with an amused and curious look. 


He didn't notice this because he was elsewhere once again:


A vast, white meadow, wet with morning dew. Hyenas screaming across collecting the moisture in their brave pelts. Waking up in the midst of a mist blanket to the sound of wild horses and curious woodland critters. Lying naked in the field, caressed by cold beads. Grass and petals latching to glistening skin. Dawn light blasting shadows across the vast expanse, a brand new tree on this horizon.


He shot up with sparks to start speaking to her but his exclamation was cut short when both of their heads collided and ricocheted like billiards. His soul escaped while he apologized but he wrestled it back in when she assured him it was all okay. He got up and ran to the bookshelf on the far end of the room. The far end was not very far, as it was a small room. He muttered to her about a house and shouting and someone peeing and talk of geography and she quite know what to make of it until he pulled out a book at long last and cracked it open to a dog-eared page. After a moment, the two got up and walked out into the hallway and down the stairs.


"Are you comfortable?" he asked. 

She giggled, "You've been talking it plenty, just read it already ya damn goof!"

They settled in to each end of the hammock. She was resting in the shade and was able to witness him reciting in the golden sun. She saw a man drunk with excitement, a note of sincerity in every syllable, as he read aloud with fire in his belly, in his excited eyes, and his hair. Sunlight soon became moonlight and the reading continued long into the next morning. Then the two lay in the hammock under a large blanket. They yawned as the purple dawn light crept in. 


Before they slipped away, one more old memory presented itself to him:


A dingy parking lot, apocalyptic fires abound, their warmth tickling the passengers of a rusted out car. Chainlink fences spin spiderwebs on her face. The dashboard bounces pale moonlight into his heavy eyes. They fall into a cozy, loose embrace and become connected as one for one, two, three, four minutes. The experiment is a success. Time to venture onward into some other jagged corner of the night.....he knew they would be alright.


Thanks to all those who submitted for our July prompt! Take a look at our August prompt, Navigation. Send any questions and submissions to shreddedmag@gmail.com by Sunday, July 30 at midnight.