“Choke” by Karim Eltawansy

Karim Eltawansy


A tattoo of birds
in the cage
of my throat.

I can’t breathe.

The world
is an eye
open to the


How many poems
do you have
by dreaming

of fire? of water

too late, too little
of breath
on the feathers

a naked cat

is sculpted into a

Tell me: the sculptor
was using his
fingers as

a ruler: his palm

a throne. I hold
all of life in
my throat. I hold

the 7th heaven

on my devil’s whisper. A genie says:
what a genie says:
I’m not available right now

get in the car.

The lamp holds
nothing to the candle
wish of tongue, holds

a shadow in the corner
of my eye: blink
thrice if a baton chops

because someone says, gravity. I’ve heard

a lot of songs about misery, but
never felt a bullet
slash through my body’s

grass limbs. Had I

to describe this membrane
what its body looked
like in breath

in its lover’s casket: I say,

brave, one syllable drops
at the speed of exhale: one
Marlboro tastes like

a carcass: if you ask
me about Africa I’ll
point my thumb down

the chamber, stick my
head in the camera
lens, fall into

black, black, black

from Poets Respond
May 31, 2020


Karim Eltawansy: “The poem is a response to the latest choking of black life.”

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