“George” — A Poem

by Minneapolis artist Andrés Guzman, via @PollenMidwest (Twitter)

by Minneapolis artist Andrés Guzman, via @PollenMidwest (Twitter)

Evan Downey, French Teacher

I can’t breathe, I said.

Another young black man spread

On the ground, my forehead

Ground in the gravelly street. 

Why me, I ponder, my mind wandering, 

wondering why…me?


Why George?

My blood vessels engorged,

Blood drips from my nostrils

And I humanly, humbly grumble

Begging for air, 

For breath, 

For life.


What fault 

Led to this assault?

Will my life end here on this asphalt? 

I can’t breathe and his knee won’t halt

Its pressure on my neck 

Even as the medics check

My vital signs. 


Five minutes were all that were required 

For this all to transpire,

For all for which I had perspired,

For all to which I had aspired, 

To expire.

I humbly inquire, 

In all frankness, 

Here in the rank dankness,

Of this city street,



What did I do 

To threaten you?

What instigation 

Led to this confrontation?

Why does our nation 

at this station 

of its moral life 

Remain rife 

With the strife 

Borne of our racist past.

We gasp aghast 

At who we were.

Yet, at every turn, 

We demur to infer 

With any candor

How such rancor 

Continues to prosper.

Our hate, a cancer 

On our nation’s soul.


Every day, new sins 

Assault the sinew 

Of everyday black residents.

When will we hold 

Those truths to be self-evident? 

When will we finally heed 

Dr. King’s plea,

And live out the true meaning 

Of our nation’s creed?

When will black bodies be free 

From the ubiquity 

Of this caustic ideology?

What warped anthropology, 

Propagated this toxic mythology

Where my black body 

Somehow threatens your right to be?

In the name of humanity, 

When will we

Eradicate this malignancy

From our society?

When will we

Remove our knee

From the neck of those of us yearning to breathe free?