Half Face-Piece Respirator by Jane Byers

Poet name: Jane Byers Poem name: Half Face piece respirator Poem: A respirator’s silicon edges get sucked  onto your cheeks when you inhale if it fits. Your muffled words, like your breath, are expressed through a valve.  You gasp when you ascend stairs, air that doesn’t draw fast enough. You talk yourself down from ripping it off, from hyperventilation.  Once a year you change magenta cartridges  that winnow acid gas and vapour,  particulate matter. The accumulation of lead and manganese, wildfire smoke too, dirties your filters.   Its elastic fastener cradles your head,  your scalp aches after a while especially with a hard-hat over top. It flops around your neck when doffed.  Respirators denote failure, are sold at safety depots, disguised as safe. Needed when engineering falters— when sufficient clean air eludes us.  Reliant for our lives on silicone,  on fit-tests, on filters, on discomfort, on the thin breath of earth’s troposphere. End of poem.  Credits and bio:  Copyright © Jane Byers Jane Byers’ memoir Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family (Caitlin Press-Dagger Editions) was released in September 2020. She has also published two poetry collections, Acquired Community, (2016, Caitlin Press-Dagger Editions), a 2017 Goldie Award Winner for lesbian poetry and Steeling Effects (2014, Caitlin Press) and a chapbook, It Hurt, That’s All I Know (Nose in Book Publishing, 2017). She was the 2018 Writer-in-Residence for Simon Fraser University’s Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony (ALOT). She has had poems and essays published in anthologies and literary journals in Canada, the U.S. and England, including Canadian Journal of Sports Literature and Best Canadian Poetry 2014. She lives in Nelson, British Columbia with her wife and teenage twins. Website: janebyerswriter.com