“I can’t breathe!”

“I can’t breathe!”

So, Eric Garner and, now, George Floyd,
their necks held ‘round,
bodies driven to the ground,
at the hands and
in the arms unsaving
of those charged to protect and serve,
their pleading, unheeded, heard,
and asphyxiated,

“I can’t breathe!”

Now, the lament, nay, protest chant
of the movement Black Lives Matter
against all manner
of police brutality and unaccountability
under the impenetrable doctrinal mantle
of qualified immunity.

I can’t breathe!”

How oft,
now, murmured on corona-wards?
These words, there heard and heeded,
summoning swift the attention, the action
of medical professionals
who live to serve,
to protect, to save.

“I can’t breathe!”

How oft
(now, o’er a century’s half;
at least, from that year setting aside
an annual April day to commemorate our care)
hath cried our Mother Earth?
She, gasping under hovering clouds of greenhouse gas,
pleads for all powers-that-be
for all people, whatever their possessing power
to act to protect and save
that She,
continuing Her journey ‘round the Sun,
may…can serve us.

Doth we here a pattern perceive that we need fear?

For anyone (you, me)
whatever our being’s manner,
whatever our color matters,
we who travel ‘round the Sun,
borne on the fragile bosom of our Mother,
at any moment, may…can be placed on hold,
thus, to cry, “I can’t breathe!”
And then left to (lost in) wonder whether,
even if heard, our call will be heeded
and someone, anyone might come to save.

© 2020 PRA

4 thoughts on ““I can’t breathe!”

  1. The deep connection between the oppression/pressing of the breath of life out of dark-skinned men, people, communities in our country and the increasing dearth of breathable air/life-sustaining climates/uninundated lowlands in the entire world is clear for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. The fountainhead of these two deadly phenomena are one and the same – the conviction of supremacy and utter entitlement in certain powerful, almost universally white, men by virtue of their too-vast wealth, their too-long-vested power, their greed, their misogyny, and their arrogance and total lack of humility before their Creator.

    The great irony is their blindness that, by virtue of the twin plagues they casually inflict upon their Mother Earth and upon their siblings in the human family, these men seal their own inevitable suffocation and that of their children. Depriving even themselves of everything that is life-giving, their wealth and power ultimately meaningless, they will eventually echo the gasps of Eric Garner and George Floyd and so many millions of others, in search of air, in search of mercy, in search of the Mother who could save them, “I can’t breathe.”

    Thank you, Paul.




  2. Yes, my dearest sister Karen, precisely or so I believe. The breath of life is the foremost gift to all else; without which nothing else matters. To sacrifice breath for the sake of something…anything else is a quintessential suicidal expression of an incomprehensible stupidity; perhaps, as I think about it – in this instant moment – afresh, the cruelest from of self-hatred of one’s own humanity, one’s own flesh, aye, all creation itself…

    I think of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38-39) whom the Lord spared from death, granting additional years to his life who, when the prophecy came that his offspring, one day, would be carried into exile, only could/would exult that there would be peace and security in his days. How or why it is that those with power inflict harm on nature and others in their time, leaving the carnage for future generations, I do not and cannot understand…

    In this realization, my tears are of sorrow and anger. May we, pray, may we find a better way…that way of love.



  3. This post was stunning!! As were your two comments. The scariest thing about this scenario of someone using their knee to permanently take the breath of someone else away is that it will become a pattern. I’ve asked myself a thousand times what would I have done if I had been there. Would I have run into the scene and pushed the former officer off, risking being shot for interfering?

    We take breath for granted but as we all watched it can so easily be taken away!

    Thank you as always for your words!

    Much love!


  4. Loretta, I, too, many times – since Eric Garner and, now, George Floyd – have imagined myself in the position of someone – whether an officer or not – with a grip around my neck to the point where I struggle for breath. When I envision this, I see myself unable to do anything but – potentially, if not freed/released from the hold – die. A shuddering thought. I also am aware that Eric Garner and George Floyd (though I’ve never sold single cigarettes on a Staten Island street or sought to make a purchase with an allegedly counterfeit bill) could have been me, for many have been the times, as I reflect on my personal history, when I’ve been out and about and could have been singled out by law enforcement for scrutiny or more (worse).

    Yet, here’s the thing for me, in this post/blog… The connection between and among varied scenarios of the loss of breath – be it a black person in police custody, BLM protests of police brutality, thus, the adoption of the slogan, COVID-19 sufferers, or Mother Earth. For me, in my mind and heart, soul and spirit, the terrifying confluence of these images…these realities is overwhelming and terrifying to me.

    Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.

    Love and a luta continua (the struggle continues) – be well, stay well, stay safe,


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