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The death of George Floyd inspired this powerful poem by Olive Senior.CBC Books · Posted: Jun 10, 20

This arrived in my mailbox, from Joy Gordon, Toronto Canada.

B for Breathe is a poem by Olive Senior. It is part of Transmission, CBC Books' original writing series reflecting on life during COVID-19. Read more works from Transmission here.

Olive Senior has been sharing poems on Twitter throughout the pandemic in a series called Pandemic Poetry. You can check those out at @olivesenior. B for Breathe was first published as part of Pandemic Poems.


B for Breathe

It takes one's breath away: a man dying during a pandemic that

takes away one's breath, no ventilator but one brave spectator,


his last breath, his need please


taking the knee on the neck from men who from birth breathed in

tainted air, imbibed a foul history, burning crosses

still smouldering

i can't breathe

like the hot breath of anger consuming the cities

that inhaled this before

this white heat this

burning sensation in the throats of

the numerous ones held down and



i can't

Come on, George Floyd, breathe in the timeless rhythm of Mother

Earth waiting for you, for all her lost children, for justice

I'm through

I'm through

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