A Place to Breathe

KB Ballentine

“The shape of your laughter is a temple.” -Paul Bond

Laughter lingers on my doorstep —
morning daffodil-bright, apple blossoms drift
across the greening yard
where bluebirds ruffle in the feeder.
Last night rain thrashed, battered deep,
scoured the darkness and left it shiny with dew.

All right.
So the world still explodes,
cracks with anger and worry.
Hate tarnishes our tongues,
shoves it onto the unseen driver
of the car cutting into yesterday’s commute,
the waitress pouring too-cold coffee.
The air sighs with lilac and hyacinth, a fragrance not lost —
not lost — to our better selves.

Wrens soften the day with song,
and my dog rolls, rubs her back in the drying grass.
My three-year-old neighbor squeals
at a butterfly, her stretching shadow.
Her giggles shimmer like a tambourine —
her music temple, a call for peace.

KB Ballentine has a M.A. in Writing and a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Poetry. Her fifth collection of poems, Almost Everything, Almost Nothing, was recently released by Middle Creek Publishing. Her fourth collection, The Perfume of Leaving, was awarded the 2016 Blue Light Press Book Award. Her work has been published in Crab Orchard Review and Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, among others. Her work also appears in In God’s Hand (2017), River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-first Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011). www.kbballentine.com

Before the Razor
A look inside the creative process of “A Place to Breathe”

When I began this poem, I had the epigraph, “The shape of your laughter is a temple.” by Paul Bond. I tried to think of all the good things I could; unfortunately, the news and social media just kept hounding on the negatives. When I turned off everything electronic and listened to the burgeoning “silence,” I noticed the birdsong outside my window and my neighbors’ three-year-old drawing chalk figures on my driveway (her driveway is gravel).


All my neighbors and I have a good relationship (thankfully!) and this particular one regularly comes over with little gifts of jonquils, dandelions, seashells, and other things she finds. I love coming home to see her and her mother’s drawings on the driveway, and I love to play with her. We blow bubbles together, we play in the special leaf piles my husband makes for her, and she runs and dances between our house and hers. This is the laughter that is a temple of peace. I only wish everyone had a laughing child to remind them what this world could be.

-KB Ballentine