The Pause Between Inhale & Exhale / Roselyn Elliott


The Pause Between Inhale & Exhale

poetry by

Roselyn Elliott

ISBN:  978-1-59948-969-8  100 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Release Date:  September 5, 2023

The Advance Discount on this title has expired. Those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $19/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 

PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date entitles the buyer to a discount. It does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above and the price only applies to copies ordered through the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore.

Roselyn Elliott is the author of four poetry chapbooks: Ghost of the Eye, Animals Usher Us to Grace, At the Center (Finishing Line Press), and The Separation of Kin (Blueline Magazine chapbook award). Her poems and essays are published in The Minnesota Review, New Letters, diode, Streetlight Magazine and elsewhere. Originally from Jefferson County, New York, as a registered nurse, she worked in hospitals and health education. Rose holds an MFA in poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University, and has served as a teacher and editor at various venues. She lives and writes in Richmond, VA.

Beginning from the viewpoint of a nurse in hospital setting, Elliott delivers insight on those, including herself, who are swept up in difficult transitions. When we suffer, our attendants may not provide much in the way of physical relief, save that they see us, strangers though they may be, yet like poetry itself, this ferries us between worlds. ~Darren Morris, Parhelion Literary Magazine


With luminous imagery, Elliott deftly navigates the landscape of loss we all endure through “the unrelenting dispersal of time”—where what keeps us “from falling is friends, / their warm bodies, pressing,” the memory of “braided laughter” with a beloved sister, the foraging junco that “comes with light” every day. This powerful collection invites us to embrace both grief and beauty, to run toward everything we love, and will inevitably lose, “Open-mouthed, arms wide.” ~Kathy Davis


Elliott’s stunning poetry collection takes us down the bumpy road of our fragile, time-locked existence. These poems encompass man and creature, earth and cosmos, in a lyrical exploration of temporality in all its guises, gently fusing our raw biological presence as we know it, to liminal spaces we can never know. In language nearly liturgical in beauty and scope, they capsize us before bringing us to float again on calm waters. ~Sharon Ackerman, Streetlight Magazine



It’s my first week in the heart unit and
my patient resembles my mother, plump,
a curly haired pleaser. Only the irregular beat
when I press the stethoscope hard
under her left breast, tells me she is sick.

On white sheets taut across her bed,
she sleeps serenely on her side.

Next morning in the morgue, I stand
at the back in a huddle of classmates.
The pathologist makes a few smart cuts, lifts her heart
high in both hands toward the overhead light.
We gape. Like a dumb flock we stare
upward, at the kind heart, glistening
and pliant in his hands.

The smell of viscera invades my future,
vision blurs, fingers tingle.
What keeps me from falling is friends,
their warm bodies, pressing
toward the center of our crowd,
warm breath, brushing my ears.
Not one of us faints during the lecture
beneath her severed heart,
but in the brilliant light I see the lie
about our work: how each day
is its own interlude of denial,
how the story will tell itself over and over
until the end of time.



New York City, 1965


At seven in the morning, rocking at the stoplight
a turquoise convertible bounces on its whitewalls,
curly-haired white guys, naked from the waist up
quaking in the front seat. We’re student nurses,
twenty years old, fresh from night shift,
pediatric ward. I want to climb into that car,
ride with them straight out of this town.

Every night we tiptoe past the children,
ethereal in their pale, shallow sleep,
listen to their whimpers and their coughing.
Across the street, Audubon Ballroom
glows orange-neon over the empty building
where Malcom X was shot six months ago.

While we walk back to the dorm,
my best friend blurts:
I lost my virginity yesterday!
She’s praying she won’t have a baby,
her lover already on his way to Vietnam.
Yesterday, she spooned medicine
into the mouth of a dying toddler,
swollen like a pumpkin and the same color.
He spat the thick pink elixir
back on her face three times. Before
she could stop herself, she raged
at his nagging mother,
If it’s so Goddamned easy, do it yourself!

Asleep today, I wake the turquoise girls,
the neon boys, take them down into the street,
teach them to rock past the elevator’s whir,
into a childhood free of oscilloscopes,
show them how to twist and roll,
dance to the noise of their own hearts.



The Train Returns at Midnight


Haunting its own dark corridor,
the train’s hollow warning,
strikes a mother’s ear
at the end of the war when she knows
her son should be returning.

She dresses and goes alone
to the station to wait,
in case the train should stop,
in case he gets off
limping, or bandaged
with a stain seeping through,
or with the whole leg missing,
his memories scattered
across a field she’ll never see.

She’s struck a bargain. Abstains
from meals except breakfast, checks
all the lamps before leaving, touches
her pocket for the back door key.
She’s willing to forgive
the enemy’s boys for the pain
coursing through her son. She’s willing
as long as the train stops,
as long as he steps off.

She slips out into the dark,
makes her way to the station, fear
locked inside of her, air
damp on her face. Gravel crunches
under her careful steps
and she takes her hope
in the repetition of its sound,
in the train’s mimic of her soft wail.

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