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Alan Swope

The Art of Sighing


Inspired by Elizabeth Bishop


The art of sighing isn’t hard to master;

each day greets us with news of fresh disaster.


Yes, it is easy to sigh, too easy.

We sigh every five minutes, says science,

but unnoticed, unwitting, not well earned.

Shakespeare’s young lover “sighs like a furnace,”

unceasing groans from a gloomy suitor.

Sighs come cheaply to these moping youth. 


But the true art of sighing is refined by the old.

Aging tunes the pitch of the sigh, enriches its timbre.

Long years deepen the reach of the sigh, each heave 

conveying a lifetime of struggle endured.


My grandfather’s sighs released the weight of years

like bilgewater from a barge. Grandmother’s sighs,

a musical chord resolving when it reaches 

its home key, all dissonance sweetened.


Sighs comfort the old, 

like the bellows breath of the yogi, 

outpourings to recharge the soul.

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