They Couldn’t Breathe by Gregg Williard

Many children were just falling asleep in their new iron lungs when the polio vaccine arrived. The children had trained eagerly. In the happy embrace of their Jules Verne homes they gasped with pressures of disbelief. Haggard Mothers cried, “Don’t take them out! They belong to the tubes! To Jules Verne, not Jonas Salk! Don’t bring them back to the bellow and shank-stropping public tenementaries of orphaned wastrel concubines! To the coal tar pits for child labor exclusion laws! To the martini beatings in Levittown! Let them go and live in the undersea amusement centers for boys and girls without lungs!”

The iron lungs hissed defiance to this Jonas Salk. A modern-day pure oxygen mix of curses to all that doubt, and girls were made of then—part chamber of panting steel, part promise of a tempting blazing combustion like some around every boy and girl that ever had the loss of negative pressure, the flaccid breath, this Jonas Salk, this modern day Whale-swallowed Nemo one! What boys shiny hygienic chamber of panting steel, part promise of a dancing polio of world had we made for them to breath within, a gasping, hissing dream of tube or tank to fill endless days with the fluid of dreams and machines on the go, submersion, conversion, gill girl mutant debutant balls held in radium baths, the hatchery bath of adjusted pressures, as the Cold War Bible sayeth, “on the line with The Iron Lung risking his own life! He injected the silver submarine into and vials denied all miniaturization and grace by the technology. An Iron lack of the press of life that later would mimic the plastic scuba men propelled through bathtubs by a leaden club foot of expanding baking powder!

Death to the boys and girls outside, life to those crewing submarines of negative pressure within the fleet of atom powered subs within! The Sulking Jonah, Jonas Salk, put the hemostats modern day whale! Watch out! The iron lung is hissing its pure oxygen mix of curses to all that doubt, and girls were made of then—He injected the silver submarine into the belly of the white whale, and when it was time to inject a polio-free subject, Jonas did not balk. He injected himself, his wife and his three sons with the silver vaccine! What massive, iron, tonka twonkiepart chamber of panting steel, part promise of a dancing polio of world had we made for them to breath within, a gasping, hissing dream of tube or tank to fill endless days with the fluid of dreams and machines on the go, submersion, conversion, gill girl mutant debutant balls held in radium baths, the hatchery bath of adjusted pressures, as the Cold War Bible sayeth, “on the line with The Iron Lung risking his own life! He injected the silver submarine into the belly of the white whale, and when it was time to inject a polio-free subject, Jonas did not balk. He injected himself, his wife and his three sons with the silver vaccine! What massive, iron, tonka twonkie Lionel erector chemistry sets of tanks and chambers, modern day whale! Watch out! The iron lung test tubes and vials denied all miniaturization and grace by the technology an Iron Lung shall be wrapped in an the belly of the white whale, and when it was time to inject a polio-free subject, Jonas did not balk. He injected himself, his wife and his three sons with the silver vaccine! What massive, iron, tonka twonkie Lionel erector chemistry sets of tanks and chambers, test tubes iron curtain of breath!”

Gregg Williard creates fiction, non-fiction and visual art. His work has appeared in Diagram, decpmP, Anemone Sidecar, Wisconsin Art and Ideas and Artocratic, among others.

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