“Poem with an Ear Pressed to the Ground” by Kindra McDonald

Kindra McDonald


That it would come down
to the science of breathing

how the lungs receive oxygen
how a pulse becomes stilled

that it would come down
to the compression of an airway

somewhere between the diameter
of a quarter and a dime

shallow breaths the equivalent
of surgical removal of the left lung

trying to breathe with fingers and knuckles
under the force of 90 pounds of pressure

like sipping air through a drinking straw
that it would come down to 12 peers

in chairs palpating their own throats
to feel the pulse beneath their probing

fingers, the tender skin indent
the metric beat of pumping blood

an ear pressed to the ground
prone and pleading

all of us needing the one
who we all came from

who held her breath
spent and waiting

for a newborn to cry
to breathe with life.

from Poets Respond
April 20, 2021


Kindra McDonald: “So much of this last year has been about breath and breathing. The transmission of an unseen virus, the breath of contagion, the respirators and intubations of packed ICU patients, but amidst all of that a reel of “I can’t breathe.” Three words that have for too long been linked to violent restraint. As the Chauvin murder trail in the death of George Floyd plays out, I’ve been struck by the breath we all share. The image of the jurors feeling their necks for the airway that was obstructed has haunted me and this poem is that ghost.” (web)

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