They said to say goodnight
And not goodbye, unplugged
The TV when it rained. They hid
Money in mattresses
So to sleep on decisions.
Some of their children
Were not their children. Some
Of their parents had no birthdates.
They could sweat a cold out
Of you. They'd wake
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They sat on the dresser like anything I put in my pocket before leaving The house. I even saw a few tiny ones Tilted against the window of my living Room, little metal threats with splinters For handles. They leaned like those Teenage boys at the corner who might Not be teenage boys because they ask For dollars in the middle Of the April day and because they knock At 10 a.m. Do I need help lifting some- Thing heavy? Yard work? I wondered If only I saw the hammers. The teenage Boys visiting seemed not to care that They lay on the floor lit by the TV. I’d have covered them up with rugs, With dry towels and linen, but their claw And sledge and ball-peen heads shone In the dark, which is, at least, a view In the dark. And their handles meant My hands, striking surfaces, getting Shelves up, finally. One stayed In my tub, slowing the drain. I found Another propped near the bulb In the refrigerator. Wasn’t I hungry? Why have them there if I could not Use them, if I could not look at my own Reflection in the mirror and take one To the temple and knock myself out?
Raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Jericho Brown won the 2009 American Book Award for his debut collection Please (New Issues, 2008). He is also the author of The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.