“relearning how to breathe,” a poem by Chris Siders

Chris Siders’s new work explores two contemporary concerns: white supremacist violence and the horrors of covid. But rather than imagining that these function separately, Siders uses the poem as a net to connect them to the way capitalism, militarism, and the U.S. nation-state itself can violently structure our experiences and very lives.

“relearning how to breathe”

God awaited for the day
I showed on their footstep
Empty handed
to present their face


Job once said
“Naked I came
from my mother’s womb
and naked I shall return”
under the same Roof
Rittenhouse maintained
with black bodies
used as the foundation
to place
a wooden table
as Lana Del Rey
attempts to sing
the same octave
as Hughes

can never
stop runnin
in Aubrey’s shoes
above underground

the earth wades
as mother’s water
breaks levees
with every led drawn
out the chamber
secrets flags kneel
on curbs
mirroring Edward Norton
as Derek Chauvin

American history
present day is
like 1918 meets 81
colliding with 92

a new celebrity in chief
against blacks
die on camera
with nothing to prosecute
in this realm
but our past
fabricated in
spangled banners
carried by
military death cults
chanting bullets
to collect
Uncle Sam’s debt
greed was the engine
looting black bodies
for profit
skin us
for the design
of their wallets
raping and killing
our fathers

mothafuck Target
mothafuck Walmart
mothafuck Amazon
fuck your gentrified
coffee shop
I got beef
with your local
police department

you say fuck the police
as a trend
I actually lived it
holding my father
at gunpoint
and making my mother watch
I was followed home
and they attempt to put
cocaine in
me and my brother’s pockets

America taught me
how to kill
when disrespected
it’s America that taught me
how to lie cheat and steal
by any means
then give the facade
that mountains
are moved
somehow by
being a fucking patriot

over half a million dead
and we dine out
to question
the point of it all
like a bad
Disney channel special

I’m at a loss for words

6 feet apart
3 people
for every two rows
only 30 people
allowed in total
for my brother’s funeral
I grieved in my anxiety
to believe death lingers
around every corner
living down the street
where 18 year old
Andres Guardado
was gunned down
by deputies

I found peace
to wallow in
negative energies
eventually catching covid
cough up blood
in my toilet
going to the ER
unable to focus
with extreme fatigue
and internal bleeding
for the first seven hours
getting punctured
repeatedly til 2
in the morning



if my heart stops beating
relearning how to breathe
as I watch Breonna Taylor’s
killers walk free


it’s the same
Jello and ice chips
for three meals
price is right
young and the restless
with more protests
punctured all around my body
getting less blood

my heart rate
over 200
thinking about my cousins
pain of a black father
sitting with the thoughts
of burying his son
and a black mother unable
to shield her child
my solid ground
crumbles in distress
receiving many messages
not understanding
what love is
reminiscing on
failed attempts of redemption
cringe at having romantic interests

convinced myself
that I am not human

took the last bit of wind
and wheezed

I can’t breathe

numb to the fingers
gripping my body
silence shrouds
seeing nothing



Chris Siders graduated from CSU Monterey Bay with a B.A. in Human Communications with a concentration in Creative Writing and Social Action. His involvement with the MENding Monologues production as a director led him to become an ally organizing events such as One Billion RisingSlut Walk with Title IX at CSUMB. He administered feminism workshops at Soledad Correctional Facility with Richie Reseda, who was featured on CNN’s “The Feminist on Cellblock Y.”. Siders performed alongside poets such as Rudy Francisco, Shihan The Poet, and graced stages such as Dominican University, UC Santa Barbara, Washington State University and many more.

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