For George Floyd, a Collaboration
Thoughts Behind a Mask
Wearing a mask,
thinking about George Floyd’s
‘I can’t breathe,’
thinking about Jefferson mouthing
‘inalienable rights’ as he
pressed them into parchment,
thinking of a knee on my neck,
what my lasting words would be.
Thinking about the stale air
in this house composed
of heated words that can’t escape.
Thinking about making a mask
out of a voting ballot,
how the strings would attach.
Watching a police station turn
to another system of smoke,
thinking people might catch
their paper masks on fire,
as they run past raging buildings
covered in George’s final words.
Thinking about different declarations,
how the one of our independence
is not a declaration at all.
It’s an engine on fire —
the rich owners flee from taxation
while we live free to run after,
out of breath, forever
pursuing their happiness.
Why Didn’t You Jump With Me?
He wanted to know.
He asked in the middle of the night.
We were camping in a tent, and
he was talking in his sleep.
The next morning we asked him
what he was talking about.
Why didn’t we jump with him?
He said he was still upset about it.
We’d left him there. We’d laughed.
No, you were dreaming, we said.
I wasn’t. You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t
jump with me. You were being
So to make up for it
we all jumped
right on top of him.
I Was Thinking About Bees,
the way they carry pollen
so that no one has to think about it
when of course that made me wish that people did—
that we had to have a Pollen Corps.
They’d travel with fine-tip horsehair brushes
and dip them into all things blooming,
sometimes only the ravens watching,
sometimes no one but clouds.
They’d follow the snowmelt
or rains flashing open,
find a creek to wash their brushes
and the flung-off laundry of their uniforms:
the Pollen Corps, March to autumn,
flower to flower.
In my hand now,
there’s suddenly an application.
In my other,
a pen with sky-ink.
If you want me, you’ll have to call loudly,
like you mean it—some memory
or something you forgot to mention—loud enough
for me to hear you through the wind.
Scott Poole on art in our current crisis:
“If you’re stuck inside you might as well do art like your life depends on it. This poem and painting came from the feeling of not being safe outside. I now deeply admire people who have wrestled with this their whole lives.”
Links to these poets:
Collaborations at EIL: