Examine Your Own Necks

by Richard Prins

A pantoum found in Dr. Martin Tobin’s testimony at Derek Chauvin’s trial

I’m primarily interested in breathing.
It’s what you have to do
when everything else is failing.
Mr. Floyd has his face rammed into the street.

It’s what you have to do
to get air moving in and out.
Mr. Floyd has his face rammed into the street.
They’re pushing the handcuffs into his back.

To get air moving in and out,
he has to try and fight against the street.
They’re pushing the handcuffs into his back.
There is not an ounce of oxygen left.

He has to try and fight against the street,
breathe with his fingers and knuckles.
There is not an ounce of oxygen left
to understand the knee on the neck.

Breathe. With his fingers and knuckles.
Try and get air into the right lung.
To understand the knee on the neck,
you have to examine your own necks.

Try and get air into the right lung
when everything else is failing.
You have to examine your own necks.
I’m primarily interested in breathing.

Richard Prins is a lifelong New Yorker. Publications include Gulf Coast, jubilat, Ploughshares, and “Notable” mentions in the Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing series. Arrests include criminal trespass (Trump Tower), disorderly conduct (Trump International Hotel), resisting arrest (Republican National Convention), and incommoding the halls of Congress (United States Senate). He also translates Swahili poetry.

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