By VC and AB

It was heard and seen around the world
As time elapsed, people stared at the unexplainable
While excessive force compelled pain to consume the air
“I can’t breathe!”

People gathered by the thousands
All races around the world
Protesting for justice and equality
For every man, woman, boy, and girl
“I can’t breathe!”

Sleeping Beauty was who she was
Dreaming in a better place
Than this troubled world
Her aspirations right at her fingertips
Until that door was kicked in
And bullets left the clip
“I can’t breathe!”

Basketball games look different
Football games are not the same
Men and women stand arms linked, unified
Demanding justice and change
“I can’t breathe!”

“I can’t breathe” weren’t just words
It was a life
The kickin’ in of that door
Dismissed a beautiful young life
“I can’t breathe!”

This can’t just be a whole lot of talk
And meaningless chatter
It has to be in your heart
That… Black Lives Matter


  1. Jackie on June 22, 2021 at 1:38 PM

    For as much as read about Breonna Taylor, I never read or even thought of her as Sleeping Beauty but that is such an apt description!

  2. Patrice on June 23, 2021 at 9:42 PM


  3. Samantha on June 29, 2021 at 8:39 PM

    VC and AB,

    I LOVED this poem!!! It was so, SO good!!! I especially liked the 4th stanza, especially the lines: “Basketball games look different, Football games are not the same”. So, so true!! Thank you for vocalizing the importance of Black Lives Matter and contributing to the movement of change!

    Best regards,


  4. Bria Tolson on July 5, 2021 at 11:44 AM

    I like this poem because it was blunt and addressed an issue that is very prevalent in this country. Some people decide to get involved in activism, more specifically BLM, because they see other people doing it or its something for them to post about on their socials. However, groups like BLM are really fighting for change and the words that they are chanting are more than words. The people that really understand the BLM and civil rights movements understand that all of these issues are very real and these are things that people have to deal with on a day to day basis. Some people are really speaking from experience and trying to change things while others may not fully understand what or who they are fighting for.

  5. Brittani Forman on July 13, 2021 at 6:27 PM

    Hi VC and AB 🙂 ,
    I ADMIRE this poem and love the awareness you bring to the current situation. I like the emphasis on “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter”. It definitely has to be in your heart to believe Black Lives Matter. Hashtags and profile pictures are enough. I read this poem multiple times just to make sure I got every element. NICE job

  6. Lily on August 9, 2021 at 11:07 AM

    I really like this poem. It was worded strongly and I like how the same phrase “I can’t breathe” was repeated and in bold.

  7. Amma on August 19, 2021 at 10:23 AM

    This poem perfectly encapsulates the urgency that change is needed. The bold at the end of each paragraph emphasizes the pain felt by the hands of police brutality. This was powerful.

  8. Adriana on August 19, 2021 at 10:33 AM

    Repetition is one of my favorite literary tools, and I really felt it in your poem. The way that you worked in a lot of recent injustices and ended with Black Lives Matter “in your heart” is a true call to action for everyone and I was filled with emotion while reading your work. I think your piece should be shared into the world to help people wake up, and your writing is going to make an impact on anyone who reads it.

  9. Sophie on August 19, 2021 at 10:34 AM

    VC and AB,
    WOW. Oh my goodness this is so so so so good. The last stanza… holy wow. I’m speechless–or whatever the writing equivalent of that is. I come from the whitest state in the country, Maine, therefore my childhood was very sheltered and I was oblivious to the inherent racism in our country. I just never understood why people would think less of someone because of their skin color, it simply didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t, but now I see it happening all around. From backhanded comments to blatant insults and prejudice. Then the recent videos of police brutality came out. It’s disgusting. I don’t get it. They could’ve just gotten up, just let him breathe, he was defenseless. I still don’t understand how anyone would do that and they deserve to be locked up. Your message is so important and so amazingly worded and presented. I’m honored to read it. BLM

  10. Skylar Seeley on August 24, 2021 at 3:19 PM

    This is a very powerful poem. I thoroughly enjoyed your rhyme scheme and the message behind it. The last paragraph was a work of art and something that should be published. Your poems speak volumes and it would be a great disservice to everyone involved if you discontinued your writing! Stay strong.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The poets featured here are currently incarcerated, and many of them are in federal prisons far from home. Your feedback is a valuable source of motivation and connection to the outside community. Post your comments, feedback, and encouragement in the space below the poem. Messages will be passed on directly to the author. Comments may not appear immediately on the site, as our team processes them to mail to the poets.