I Can’t Breathe
by Joan Jobe Smith Voss
I can’t breathe.
The smoke from the pyre burning me alive
because my name is Joan in Rouen chokes me.
Othello smothers me with a pillow.
Bill Sykes bludgeons me with his walking
stick till I fall to the floor, face down in Dickens dust.
Jack the Ripper slices as he writes his initials across my
A Nazi shaves my head and hands me a bar
of soap for my shower in Auschitz
and right now I am watching a video
of a big cop sitting on my chest
as he laughs, tells me a joke, while
he punches me in the face with his big fists
a cop big enough to sign with the NFL
play first string, win a Super Bowl.
Have you ever had a big dude
with a big ass like that
sit on your chest?
Scream hyena in your
Cracks your rib bones,
busts your eardrums
and breaks your heart.
That happened to me nearly 50 years ago
and it just happened to me again right now
I’m watching it on a video here in my dining room
of him, you, me,
in the privacy of my own home,
minding my own business
now minding him, our own business
and I can’t fucking