I Cannot Breathe Freely

The People demonstrate their righteous anger,

the many, sick of life beneath the few;

injustice builds a pressure fit to blow,

as police enact the State in riot gear.

The weight of suffering presses on my chest:

before even the first tear gas is thrown,

I cannot breathe freely in this world.


Millions caught in war they did not ask,

in danger, maybe wounded, friends lie dead,

home towns rubbled, food a meagre hope.

Before even the jets drop poison gas

I cannot breathe freely in this world.


Those who land here fearing for their lives

have run from hell, go through hell once more,

wait in ragged camps or climb the wires,

may yet gasp for air in smugglers’ trucks.

Before even the lorry leaves the port

I cannot breathe freely in this world.


The forest people of the Amazon

– the innocent children we once were –

retreat from chainsaws, guns and stinking greed,

the grounds they hunt and gather shrinking fast.

Before I catch the forest clearance smoke,

I cannot breathe freely in this world.


New diseases threaten from afar,

slither along lines where we connect

– degrees of separation precious few.

Before even I put this face-mask on,

I cannot breathe freely in this world.


Climate-change droughts bring starvation,

we cannot feed our population growth;

greed-ravaged oceans one more desert,

a rubbish dump of toxic plastic waste;

we all live in a greenhouse, riding

chariots of oil to kingdom come.

Before the air pollution hacks my throat,

I cannot breathe freely in this world.


The four horsemen gallop unrestrained,

their chosen weapons: blindness, greed and hate;

their toys: locusts, famine, storms and fire.

Suffering rises steadily as oceans:

before the dust of hooves assails my nose,

I cannot breathe freely in this world.



8 March 2020


copyright Five Cram

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