top of page

C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

I can't b–-

By: Claire Alexander-Joly

90° weather

and the air conditioner’s dead,

“I can’t b—”

At the edge of my voice,

the words get stuck

right there, between my lips

—and then die.

I can’t breathe.

Man, I can’t breathe.

The voice begging the white police officer for air,

any kind of air,

breaks over mine.

I’ve seen the video,

but it’s the voice that stays with me.

The pleading that goes on and on and on,

the words, a prayer, unanswered.

I can’t b


Words I once said so casually,

I no longer utter,

without thought or care

—or at all.

Words now set aside

by the burden of history,

not to be desecrated by trivial concerns

on a hot summer day.

I Can’t Breathe

A Black man’s unwanted epitaph.

A last appeal for mercy.

Please, sir.


There isn’t a breeze outside.

But I can breathe.

I definitely can breathe.


Claire Alexander-Joly is an English college professor by trade. She teaches storytelling through various forms including poetry, and also screenplay writing. Recently, she also earned a Certificate in Writing from the University of Washington. She is currently working on a memoir called "'You're White Now': A Story of Immigration, Adulthood, and Race in America."


bottom of page