The red faced gagging. Calm, you grab him. He
Has chocked before. The crook of your left arm
Between his legs, your palm across his chest.
You lift him tilting his head toward the floor
Resting your arm on your knee. You clap him
On the back with your strong hand. Ears still red.
The side of his cheek turning purple. You
Clap him harder. But you don’t want him hurt.
You ask, “Are you breathing? Are you breathing?”
He turns his head, red faced. He turns his head
And looks you in the eye. His watery
Red eyes. Pleading. But he can’t speak. He just
Reflects back your same fear. You hit him on
The back harder. He still isn’t breathing.
You hit him harder afraid you might break
His ribs. Then you hit even harder. You
Put your ear next to his mouth and listen.
No breath. Why isn’t it working? His cheeks
Are full. There is something in his mouth. You
Forgot a step. Finger sweep. You reach toward
His mouth and extend a finger. But he
Sees your hand. Thank God. He is still conscious.
He turns his head and spits a wad of chewed
Sausage into your palm. Looks at you and
Smiles, red faced and watery eyed. And
Croaks one ragged breath. Much too short. But breath.
You say, “Are you breathing?” His face purple.
And he says nothing. You turn to listen.
His breath. Nothing. What else? What do you do?
You call out for his mother. You don’t know
Why. You cry out for her. He isn’t able.
You scream for her. Crying because he can’t.
What are you doing? You can’t stop trying.
You have to pick up the phone. Call nine-
one-one. But you can’t leave him. You can’t move.
You cry. Where is his mother? Where is yours?
Death lingers just outside your vision. He’s
Waiting to lend his cold hands. Whispers. And
He’ll call your son’s name. You’ll feel Death’s breath and
You’ll wonder: what kind of devil is Death
To leave a man helpless and on his knees
With a warm wad of chewed meat in his hand?