As I step into the cold outside,
the outside cold steps into me.
It fills and holds my lungs
as tight as a sapling grips the soil.
My next breath nurtures it quickly
into a vast oak,
stiff branches reaching out,
its dry leaves rustling
as the air crawls by.
No deeper exhalation
to be found
in this


I need an axe
to fell this tree,
so I reach into my pocket
for the blue plastic L,
smooth in my hand.

Two puffs, and the tree inside turns back into
what it used to be – just air and sunlight.
I am released to climb the kinder tree in the park ahead.
Both of us outside, where we belong.



Brian Mackenwells is an Irish writer living in Oxford. Despite being quite tired, he has written for the BBC about pencils, told stories on stage about not getting sick in zero gravity, performed standup about strange superheroes, and co-wrote an audio drama every month for five years. His poems have been published in The Dirigible Balloon and The Caterpillar, and his Irish-language film-poem Cur Síos was chosen for the Irish Selection category at the 2021 Ó Bhéal Irish poetry festival.