A Year’s Worth of Oxygen

The cold crept into my bedroom one night,

While I stared at the ceiling and did anything but sleep.

It hung its coat in the closet,

Its scarf on the door,

And it slipped its naked body into bed next to me,

Stroking my arms and hips,

Kissing my cheek the way you used to.

I turned my head away and stayed silent.


The snow tangled in my hair like wildflowers

Until the heat of my body melted it and it slipped under my clothes,

Down my back,

Until it slipped inside my skin and pooled in that spot at the base of my stomach,

Until it dripped, dripped, dripped,

Wore away my insides,

Left me with a shell of skin that broke to pieces when I clawed at it,

When I fell to my knees because I didn’t have the energy to stand anymore.


This was the year I learned how to sigh.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Head down.


Sometimes I get tired of being quiet and I throw myself against my walls

Because I know that I could’ve covered them with love letters to you

But instead I kept them inside my body and now they press against my skin,

And against the top of my throat,

This is what it means to scream,

To rip open my mouth with words because I just can’t handle the silence anymore.

This is what it means to breathe.


by Sarah Saltiel //  Featured image by Janelle Rainer

Sarah 'Sam' Saltiel

Sarah "Sam" Saltiel is a queer nonbinary transmedia artist, writer, and game designer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work generally addresses the question of what it means to be a body in space, specifically as that pertains to intersections and erasures of gender and mental illness. She has been published by Riza Press, Duende, and Thoreau's Rooster, among others. She has published two poetry chapbooks, "a long exposure of undoing" and "a thesaurus for the way water returns". To check them out, as well as the rest of her work, check out her website: https://www.sarahsamsaltiel.com/webstore