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In the darkness I knew I grew
and flowered. An orchid that
opened its petals at night
and drew in breath without light.

No one saw me. No one
knew me.

Do you know the sound of the silence?
The sound when you know you have nothing
nothing more to give
and no more blood to bleed
and your hands are empty
and your head is bowed.

The darkness envelops you like a shield —
you plead — you pray to God though
you don’t believe. A flower that opens
at night cannot live
and who are you to live
and what are you living for?

Spiritus invictus.

Spiritus does not mean spirit.
It does not mean soul.
It does not mean life.
It means breath.

It breaks sinew
this darkness.
It shreds flesh
and tears bone
and rips the heart in two,
into fragments.

But the human spirit
is not a body
and the human being at the core still breathes
and catches wind and flies and soars,
a bird with battered wings
and a beating soul that breathes
and breathes and breathes and breathes.

If you enjoyed “Breath,” keep on breathing and read more poetry:

In the Garden
Child of the Sun
Quartet
Voices

This poem is inspired by William Ernest Henley’s wonderful poem “Invictus.”

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