i can’t breathe…

i can’t breathe… : Gloss

a pale space without distinguishing feature or end.



a dull throb of a sound always present, barely perceptible.

a whining that ebbs and flows, always there.



dull time.


more whining, like sound complaints of tedium.

blanched air, the smell of acrimony.


pale space, dull time.


whiteness without end, smelling tired of itself.


black objects appear throughout.

hazy first, falling into focus.


they are tables, chairs, stoves.

brooms, lawnmowers, whips.


they litter the space, all black.

the whining acquires pulse, becomes rhythm.


vibrating against the pulse, the objects spin, pop, and dip; they whirr into life.

they become young, vibrant Black people.


Chicly-clad and extraordinary in appearance, powerful, casual and cool.

Strong. Surprised.


They see each other.

They see the expanses of pale.

They listen.


the pulsing sound devolves into the dull throb.


They see you.

They consider the expanse and its sounds, its smell.

They stand in formation.


They gasp, grasping for air.

Resisting arrest.

They collapse.

About the Author

Thomas F. DeFrantz is Professor and Chair of African and African American Studies at Duke University, and Director of SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, a research group that explores emerging technology in live performance applications. Books: Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance (Wisconsin, 2002), Dancing Revelations Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture (Oxford, 2004), Black Performance Theory (co-edited with Anita Gonzalez, Duke, 2014), Choreography and Corporeality: Relay in Motion (co-edited with Philipa Rothfield, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).