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perhaps you meant to say
I didn’t intend to charm you
Even as you harmed him, and
So you didn’t and you did

i can’t breathe

Perhaps you saw this as a game and
Eric’s black head a football
you had caught and spiked
for a touchdown on the cold
cold concrete

a football with eyes and ears and a nose

i can’t breathe
i can’t breathe

whose goal posts were
you protecting,
which offensive line
were you on?

i can’t breathe
i can’t breathe

What makes you see red,
when you see black and brown?
Does it make your heart beat faster,
proud shield bearer of
the brave and the free?

i can’t breathe
i can’t …  breathe
i … can’t … breathe
i … can’t …

You’ll have to forgive me
if when I spot you on the
street I go out of my
way to avoid you

No offense, Officer

But I may get asthma
my air ducts may shut down
and I’ll fall to the ground, be
the center of a neighborhood drama

No offense, Officer, if I don’t
take to your charm offensive, or is
it your offensive charm,
nor to your
Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect*

when what Eric needed was
Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation.

It’s just that, Officer,
when I see you

i can’t breathe
i can’t breathe

I hope you’ll understand
This is a matter of life and breath



* Inscribed on NYPD police cars



Luis Francia Luis H. Francia is the author most recently of Tattered Boat, a collection of poems. He teaches at New York University and Hunter College.

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