I Can’t Breathe Frank Meintjies

Frank Meintjies | Jun 13th, 2020 | poetry | No Comments


I can’t breathe
the dead call out to us
from across the decades
here in Mzansi, there in Namibia, Congo, France, the U.S.
from Emmet Till to Hector Peterson and back – and back
Lumumba, King, Biko, Mxenge, Tatane

I can’t breathe

The boots and bulldozer wheels have chewed and stomped
across the land, across my face
& somewhere down below
rugged as the day is long
the seeds that wait

I can’t breathe

So little air
silicosis, asbestos, the gagging Wentworth air
the buses and the taxis headed to the place of toil
the jampacked trains on which, like graffiti, the jobless cling
the shaft that injects my blood into the earth
and sucks out gold

I can’t breathe

The crowded wards, the brown benches
where uncles, aunts and kids sit
the beds that lay like wounded soldiers in the passageway
the blades protruding
the zipped-up coroner’s bag
with, oh, so little ventilation

I can’t breathe

The table bare, each morsel in the month’s ends jaw
I use some sugar water, roll pap into a ball, chew
and wait and wait for something more
& thus …. this belly limps and stumbles
over thresholds into one more month, another broken day

We can’t breathe

I inhale
feel the universe expanding in my gut
my mind’s a garden ready for the spring, the planting and the turning
my feet the pistons for the journey
this scarred heart
still has muscle tone and sinews
let’s break the stranglehold, force back the crushing knee
until then

I can’t breathe

Poet Bio

Based in Johannesburg, Frank Meintjies works in the field of social development. Frank’s creative writing has been included in several South African anthologies. He also frequently contributes to the world of poetry through participation in readings. His poetry collections are Unfettered Days, Connexions and My Rainbo

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