Cirencester Scene


Somewhere Else Writers now have a slot in Cirencester Scene, a monthly magazine delivered to 12,000 homes in the Cirencester area.


April 2019

Breathing Out by Sophie Livingston

 ‘We concentrate on the exhalation,’ she said. He lay on the floor with the others and breathed out. ‘How long can you hold that out breath before you inhale again?’ she asked. His room reminded him of student days – a single bed, a small ensuite and a pinboard for mementos. He joined a tour of the facilities – the swimming pool and sauna, yoga and Tai Chi classes. The evening meal was excellent. ‘Can I go for a walk?’ he asked. ‘This is a sealed unit,’ she replied, ‘but we have virtual spring and autumn walks programmed in our leisure suites. Some guests prefer to jump straight to the views from mountain tops.’ Her uniform was both crisp and concealing. It reminded him of nuns. ‘How long?’ he asked. ‘Approximately a month,’ she replied, ‘we don’t want to rush anyone. You are lucky,’ she added, ‘the state-run units are nothing like this.’

The place he returned to over the coming weeks was the poetry room. The poems, thousands of them, were written on A4 paper and protected from decay by sheets of glass fixed to the floors, walls, and ceilings. ‘It’s beautiful,’ he exclaimed. She smiled. ‘It seems to be an impulse,’ she said, ‘and we cherish them.’

His daughter had wept. He possessed savings enough to postpone but wanted his death to be his gift to her and his granddaughter. ‘The old must make way for the young,’ he said, ‘that is the way of things.’

He read many of the poems. Often they were shoddy things and this moved him more. What impulse was it that had led them to try and press some final expression of themselves into words they had rarely used in their lives? Was there some secret thing, revealed, at this moment of crisis in their existence, that demanded to be heard in this way?

‘They are the tuneless songs of the dying,’ he told her after he had, at last, asked for his own paper and pen. ‘They are a final, blessed exhalation of something we cannot understand.’

‘Close your eyes and breathe out gently,’ she said.