A Villanelle for George Floyd

Give the man his dignity, let his humanity be.
He’s handcuffed already, neck pinned to the ground.
A man’s man, give him space to breathe.

He’s somebody’s son, for Christ’s sake.
He’s somebody’s lover, just like you and me.
Give the man his dignity, let his humanity be.

A man’s a man, with wife and daughter.
He has a brother and sister, just like you and me.
A man’s a man, please give him space to breathe.

Dear Lord, a man’s last breath should be private.
Only loved ones should witness such a transition.
Give the man his dignity, please let his humanity be.

Once an earthly creature, you now ascend
with wings to carry you over rivers and mountains.
An angel now, everywhere you can breathe.

As for me, my son sleeps on my chest.
His Khmer nose flattened by the weight of love.
I hug him so tight, letting his humanity be.
I hug him so tight, I can no longer breathe.

 

Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of GruelAnd So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (a chapbook with Joanna C. Valente, Yes Poetry). He teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY. He tweets @BunkongTuon