We were just trying to breathe

By: Kujegi Camara

Trapped in stairwells
Black bodies overwhelmed by Black smoke
because this country
can underwhelm

We were just trying to keep warm
We were just trying to stay alive

But somehow in this country, to want to stay alive
Means you have already died
Means you have already lost

They will say malfunctioning space heater
Not malpractice
A door left open
Not infrastructural negligence
Because our bodies are not
worth a functional investment

Our Black bodies
Left West Africa’s sun dipped shores
To wade into America’s wind chipped borders
Dreams now ashes
They will say we inflicted our own deaths
Not that we were making space ourselves
Forced to carve everything from nothing

Building 333 steeped in violations–No
We were violated
Failure to comply–No
Heat was withheld because
Black bodies are not worth nurturing

The essential fact of capitalism
Is creative destruction
Our people’s health and safety destroyed
to fill up pockets of greedy landlords

An Irony
That to ask for heat
Instead of compliance
We get silence laced in fire
An overindulgence that drove us out
Handcuffed us into cardiac arrest

The system gutted us out of our homes
Now it needs to be gutted

How many times do we have to die
to finally be able to breathe

To the martyrs
May you breathe in God’s everlasting abode
May it taste like sweet honey
May it remind of the warmth you were denied, Mercy
May the mercy he affords you
Outweigh the pain you endured
May our promise that you did not die in vain
Allow you to finally take your rest

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