poetry

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Imagine 

Finding yourself 

Being pulled underwater. 

The current taking you out

Into the deep.

You

Try your best

To paddle your feet to the surface.

Gasping

Gagging

Eyes bulging for oxygen. 

And the weight of your ankles

Never have the strength 

To shake off the anchors 

Holding you down.

The chain of subjection.

The more you struggle

The more

The rust of the iron 

Cuts into the calves.

Blood introduces the oppression 

Of other predators.

Racism 

Discrimination 

Police Brutality 

Profiling 

Redlining 

Gentrification 

Privatized Prisons.

Lungs filled with ocean. 

Blacked out.

Being pulled Into the outer darkness.

It’s a wonder why 

We are stereotyped on swimming.

Afraid to test the water.

Never taken lessons. 

Always second guessing 

How cold it is

How deep it can get.

How long can you hold your breath?

Until

Emmitt Till is found 

In Tallahatchie River?

Until 

They’re ready to give penicillin 

To Macon County sharecroppers?

Until Eric Garner 

And George Floyd 

Get their second wind?

We put our hands up

To be rescued.

Waving a white flag in hopes

Of a fitted life jacket.

Instead

Body bagged

Toe tagged

Target practice for the next

Victim.

It’s not that we just can’t breathe

But we’ve been out of breath

Since slave catchers and dog bites.

We’ve been 

Back of the Bus tired.

We’ve been

Klan rally gag ordered. 

We’ve been

Vietnam Frontlined.

We’ve been

Flint water poisened.

Hell

Being short of breath

And

Asthmatic 

Tends to be life’s custom.

To be an American 

Is one thing.

To be an African American 

Well…

Let’s just see how long

You can hold your breath.

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