Friday, August 09, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Space Between Breaths

by Hugh MacLeod at GapingVoid

The Space Between the Breaths We Take

Movie ticket, untorn;
popcorn box full.

Swimmers crouched;
pool still smooth blue glass.

Clean sheet of paper;
pencil, freshly sharpened, hovering.

Bus brakes hiss;
driver grasps the door handle.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

My ophthalmologist asked me a very predictable and seasonal question last week when I was in for my yearly eye checkup: "Are you ready for school to start?" His wife is a teacher, and our conversation turned to the difference in pacing between a teacher's year and an ophthalmologist's. He drew the difference in the air with his hand -- ours like a roller coaster and his like I-70 in Eastern Colorado. He can't imagine living with the ups and downs of starting over again each year. And I can't imagine a career that stretches like a flat line from horizon to horizon. 

As if he were reading my mind, Hugh MacLeod sent me a 'toon to illustrate this: "New beginnings are why we breathe." If every new breath is a new beginning, teachers are living in that space between two breaths -- that space between when our "imaginary class" becomes the real students who'll live with us in our classrooms for the next nine months. That space between when the plans that are on paper come alive and grow into the living, changing curriculum that we will chase and try to pin down for the rest of the school year.

In my poem, I tried to capture other "spaces between," other moments filled with some of the same potential that teachers are living in for the next few days or weeks.

For Poetry Friday next week, on August 16th, we'll be visiting a new space, on Tumblr! Lisa invites you to Steps & Staircases. You can submit your contribution here:

In addition, Lisa also invites you to share something "close to your heart," sort of as another common side dish at our poetry potluck. It doesn't need to be poetry, it can just be something current you're really enjoying and would like to share with others. Thank you for participating!

Renee is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup today at No Water River.


  1. Hi, Mary Lee. What a beautiful poem. I love the theme you take on -- sort of, "the moment before," or those times in between things happening. Enjoy your last moment before the school year.

    I'm excited about visiting Tumblr next week!

  2. Mary Lee, I, too, choose the roller coaster over the flat distance. I do enjoy a nice view, too, though, sometimes, as part of my roller coaster. :)Love your poem, esp. the crouched swimmer.

  3. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Mary Lee, These images are perfect illustrations of the "space between." I'll never forget when, after travelling across I-70 for what seemed like days through Kansas, we reached Colorado. My kids were ecstatic until they looked out the window and realized the landscape hadn't changed! We were all very happy when we made it to the Rockies.

  4. Gorgeous moments captured, Mary Lee. I like the anticipation between each line of your poem, especially the bus image. I love traveling, and that hiss means the door is about to open to some new place.

  5. Anonymous12:05 PM

    You captured the "spaces between" perfectly, Mary Lee!

  6. Beautifully imagined, that space of drawn breath, Mary Lee. I've been meeting with teachers already & it's as if we speak in hushed tones also, that waiting. Hope your beginnings are wonder-filled!

  7. I absolutely love thinking about what happens between my breaths. I sometimes feel like I am holding my breath in anticipation of this new year. However, each cleansing breath is reassuring that new horizons are around the corner. Loved all the images in your poem, so smart.

  8. What a beautiful between breaths. I am in a funny space right now. School started today, but I won't start pulling my kids for gifted class for another week. And most of my students are the same as last year. It's definitely a breathing space. Thanks for sharing your poem and the cool image.

  9. You've captured the space four times in four ways.
    So I guess I have a week to figure out what tumblr is!

  10. I love "space between breaths". It's so true, as teachers we begin anew each school year, and no day is ever the same. We start back to school next Tuesday, there won't be much breathing space for a long time once we start. Those first weeks are exciting, but so busy. You poem is lovely, Mary Lee!
    Have a great school year!

  11. I love the anticipation in that last stanza...almost a nervous energy there, just as one feels right before school begins. Good luck for a fabulous opening day!

  12. Beautiful Mary Lee. Thanks for sharing your thinking behind the poem. I'll be sharing this with my students on one of our Poetry Fridays. Happy beginning of school!

  13. More great imagery--I love the imagery in your poems, Mary Lee!

    Thank you so much for getting the word out for my hosting debut next Friday--I really appreciate it. Looking forward to tomorrow's 10 for 10 posts--I made mine in picture-form : )

  14. Fantastic poem, Mary Lee! I love the thought that we a living in the "space between" every day. And your concrete examples in your poem hit the nail on the head. Thank you for this today. =)

  15. Love, love this, Mary Lee. Such great images. I especially liked the "pool still smooth blue glass." And the idea to explore those moments that live between the moments is very interesting. It seems as if nothing is happening in those moments, as if the pool's smooth surface is an outward sign of quiet or inactivity, but as you know, in the mind of the swimmer (and the teacher!) the moment before is filled with imagining and is anything but quiet!

  16. "New beginnings are why we breathe." Wow. So true. While we crave the comfort of our routines; it's change, discovery, and renewal that makes life interesting. As usual, Mary Lee, I must thank you for giving me new perspective, and for your poem which gave me chills of anticipation.

  17. I've thought about this poem a lot since it first came to me through email on Friday. You perfectly capture that second of suspense, excitement, and anticipation. Love!

  18. Anonymous10:56 PM

    Interesting poem, Mary Lee! I like the concept. I re-read it a couple times and found that it's even more powerful (at least to me) just reading the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th lines...but again, that's just me!

  19. I was just reading about writing about things not there. Now I am connecting this to your poem, focusing on things that have not yet happened. For me, anticipation is both best and worst of feelings... Many hugs to you and your lucky students. xo


Comment moderation is turned on.