This is one part of a collection of Oulipo-inspired alphabet poems I wrote on the subject of breathing for coursework in the

first term of my final year at university. The constraint on this one isn't particularly tight, but the letter X gave me as much trouble as it did throughout my collection (1). Despite this, I think this is the most successful of the bunch, as it comes the closest to 'winning the game', by which I mean being able to stand alone, free from the crutch of having to have its motivations explained by being the result of an exercise. I came up with several variations on the alphabet theme, focussing mostly on the snowball form, so there's more where this came from. I'm quite happy with it, anyway. Thanks for reading.

(1) a xylotypograph is a word that I think I may have invented, meaning a print made with the use of wooden blocks.

1 Zephyr 2 Yawn escapes. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Xylotypographs that we Were presented with jostle, Vying for attention. Given to Us by our children, they represent The years between each and the time Since the last left. Our breathing, as one, Rises and falls. The space that air surrounds expands. Quaffing the other’s waste, we fill our lungs so that bellies Puff outward and press against one another. In this moment, we Open. The years add up and subtract us. The memory, mellifluous but Not at all bittersweet permeates the palate and, as a drop of ink Masks the water around it, becomes one with the great white now. We are Lost, together. I find myself for a short while walking across frozen lake, long before Knowing that we’d ever be ‘we’. Some time later, I am clinging onto every word. Next, Jacketed with a knotted stomach. I open my mouth to the taste of warm breath and revel In it. I take it in. My eyes open as your cheeks tighten into a smile. The soft

19 Hiss of mutual exhalation tickles and your flesh tightens further. My eyes close and I indulge myself in a 20 Grin of my own. My mind moves in the opposite direction to my lips and casts further back, to a 21 Forest somewhere in southern England before we meet. It’s the first day of autumn and the leaves mix the colours of 22 Emerald and rust. There is a light crunch underfoot and as I wander, I wonder at the relative size of all around. 23 24 25 26 Different circumstances could well lend themselves to a smaller view of things but the majesty of the world and the eye of youth Combine and the smallest twig becomes as significant as the tree that bore it. The crisp air is stained with the evidence of escaped Breath and the sound of beating wings above lightly batters the trail my heat has left behind. Snap back to our moment as arms circle Around me and, meeting each other’s gaze, I bask in the certainty that however small we may be apart, the world stops when we come together.