“I Can’t Breathe”

  • I am a mother that lives in fear.
  • I am a sister that has many restless nights.
  • I am an American black woman and my fear is a pandemic.

I walk into the street. Bright yellow lines direct the cars and my feet.

I go left into the moving crowd. My neighborhood is full of people brown, black and proud.

The sounds of soul music is an urban flavor. It gives rhythm to our walk and its taste that we savor.

Pick-up basketball keeps kids dribbling orange balls in the park. I keep on the go cause these streets will get dark.

I say “hey” to my homies and “what’s up” to some I don’t know. See, my momma made me greet everybody when I was on the grow.

All of a sudden I hear, “Stop. Put your hands up.” The voice comes from behind.

I just do it cause I know better. You see — they think my life is a crime.

Since I could walk, talk and think, my momma told me, “Boy, raise them hands high if you get stopped.”

“Boy, if they stop you, don’t move an inch. Their bite stings more than a pinch.”

“Keep them hands in the air!” Momma uttered as her voice croaked with fear.

I’ve been taught since a babe that my life ain’t to save. Never sure if we are so far from just a slave?

911 is like the Russian Roulette game. Dial for help and its you they will blame.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

I’ve been taught to survive. Momma pushed us to strive.

“Gentle giant” I’ve been called. My height and skin makes them appalled.

Surrounded by sirens and red lights blinking nonstop. A wall of blue suits swallowed me up.

White hands pinned my arms in steel chains. It’s cause I wear these outer dark stains.

My black skin they see. That makes me not free.

Momma’s words echoed strong within my head. Pushed to the floor my arms and legs spread.

I am under them all. I know I can’t bawl.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

My words fell on deaf ears. I pled for air as I fell into the tears of Momma’s fears.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

I am slipping away. Lord do you hear when I try to pray?

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

His knee hard on my neck. It can’t be the first life that it managed to reck.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

Time is not on my side. His weight is stealing what is left of my pride.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

Lord do you hear me? I’m coming home today.

Many hold Bibles, but they don’t know your way.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

My voice is at a whimpering whisper down, down, down. Lord, I see the light from your crown.

“I can’t breathe, Momma. I can’t breathe Momma!”

Lord let me in. I’m under a knee taking my life with a grin.

My eyes are closing fast. Hitler used gas.

Lord, my father, open the gate. In humanity, even now, I still have fate.

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Allison Matulli, J.D. I M.Ed [aka Professor Ally]

Executive Director of Legal Kid, Inc - the leading organization empowering kids to know the law.


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