I. Ecology In that world, I was a black man. Now, the bridge burns and I Am as absent as what fire Leaves behind. I thought we ran To win the race. My children swear We ran to end it. I'd show them The starting point, but no one here Fights fire. The water infects us, The sky won't allow for rain, and Every day, the air darkens ... the air, The only black thing of concern-- Who cares what color I was? II. Cross-examination Do you mean love? Certainly a way of loving. Did it hurt? When doesn't it? We'll ask the questions. Did it hurt? When death enters a child's room, The child feels a draft. You chose for it to hurt. I chose my brother over my desire To be invisible, yes. We thought Four brother was dead ... He is. And his death made you Visible? You only see me When I carry a man on my back. But you arrived alone. That wasn't me. That was the man who lost My brother. III. Street Directions Will black men still love me If white ones stop wanting me Dead? Will white men stop Wanting me dead? Will men Like me stop killing men like You? Which made us brothers-- That you shielded my body With yours or that you found Me here, dying on the pavement, And held my empty hand? IV. Re-direct Tell us, then, how did that man lose your brother? I imagine I lost him in the fire. The record suggests You lost him to a bullet. The record was written In my first language. The bullet is How I lost myself. And this preoccupation with color, Was that before or after you lost yourself? The women who raised me referred to Jesus As "our elder brother." And what about face? What you call a color I call Away. Forgive us. We don't mean to laugh. It's just that Black is, after all, the absence of color. V. Fairy Tale Say to me that the shame I see Inching like a white steam along The streets will never seep beneath The doors of this bedroom, and if It does, if we dare to breathe, tell me That though the world ends us, Lover, it cannot end our love Of narrative. Don't you have a story For me? And is that story in the fingers You place over my lips to keep me From sighing when, before the queen Is kidnapped, the prince bows To the enemy handing over the horn Of his favorite unicorn like those men Brought, bought, and whipped until They accepted their master's names? VI. Multiple Choice Metal makes for a chemical reaction. Now that my wrists are cuffed, I am Not a citizen--Who will touch me And not claim contamination? What A shame. When police come They come in steel boots. Precious Metal. They want me kicked. Kick me they do. I cannot say They love me, so they seek me out As a lover would, each with both hands Bringing me to my knees, under God, Indivisible. I did not have to be born Here. Men in every nation pray And some standing and some flat On their backs. Pray luscious silver. Pray Christmas. A chain a chain. Even if it's pretty. Even around The neck. I cannot say they love Me with a fist in my new bald mouth. Pray platinum teeth. Show me A man who tells his children The police are here to protect them, And I'll show you the son of a man Who taught his children just where To dig. Not me. Couldn't be. Not On my knees. No citizen begs To beg, other than for forgiveness. VII. Passover Which Angel of Death flies by each house, waving My brother's soul in front of windows like a toy, A masked and muscle-bound action figure with fists We wanted when we were children, some light And pliable item our family could never afford?
JERICHO BROWN worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before receiving his Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. The recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, Brown is an Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Fence, jubilat, Oxford American, Ploughshares, A Public Space, and 100 Best African American Poems. His first book, Please (New Issues), won the American Book Award.
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|Publication:||The American Poetry Review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2012|
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