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I can’t breathe, We can’t breathe, Earth can’t breathe, a prayer-poem by Rabbi Arthur Waskow (the Shalom Center 2020)


Contribute a translationSource (English)

I Can’t Breathe”
Again and again,
With gun or choke-hold.
Police steal the breath of Black Americans
The police are not merely police
For they hold a national authority
To use violence on behalf of the nation:
To serve us all, protect us all.
When they subjugate the Black community
They implicate us all,
They make us all Subjugators
And their misdeeds have stirred
A great Uprising against racism.

We can’t breathe.
All humanity is choking
From a virus that invades our lungs.
We have left no space for other species
And the virus leaps into our lives,
And then when our rulers ignore the danger
It becomes still worse–
Choking our societies, our jobs, our businesses,
Our democracy. Our lives.

Earth Can’t Breathe
All life on Earth depends on Interbreathing
Plants breathe in Carbon dioxide, breathe out Oxygen.
Animals breathe in Oxygen, breathe out Carbon dioxide.
Our Interbreathing is the Breath that keeps all Earth alive.
Nishmat kol chai, tivarekh et shimcha: Yahhhh elohenu:
The breath of all life praises Your Name;
For your Name in truth whispers all life.
YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh/ Yah, is our God.
Not the Jewish God alone,
Not the human God alone,
The God of all life.
But too much CO2 is the “climate crisis” —
Chokes our breathing.
And when Earth can’t breathe
We ourselves can’t breathe:
The fires that ravage California
Send smoke that chokes our breathing.
Earth can’t breathe.
Can’t —– br— the.

“You shall not take My Name with an empty heart.”[1] cf. Exodus 20:7 and Job 11:12.  
Every breath we take
Is Itself the Name,
Part of that great Breath that is the Holy One.
You shall not rob My peoples
And My life-forms
Of My Name, My Breath.

We must breathe.

“I can’t breathe, we can’t breathe, Earth can’t breath” was first published by Arthur Waskow on 27 July 2020 on the website of the Shalom Center.



1cf. Exodus 20:7 and Job 11:12.



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