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About this Poem 

"Some places, some literal locations, remind us that we are alive and that we live because someone else was willing to make the art that sustains us, music and poetry that give us something to look forward to, to dance to in a world that would have us dead or imprisoned. I am most amazed at my capacity to feel joy...and I understand that joy as an inheritance passed down to me by people who don't mind having a good time in a dangerous and forgetful country."
Jericho Brown

Meditations at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

 

1.
Dear Tom Dent,
We still love you
And what it means
To be a black college
President's son
Whose point of pride
And rebellion look
Like men in the 6th
& 7th Wards.  You
And I knelt before
Them until they
Groaned.  And ain't
That music too,
The body of several
Shades made into
One sound of want
Or without or wish
A Negro would
come
Back home, little light
Skin, come give Daddy
A kiss.

2.
I present myself that you might

Understand how you got here
And who you owe.  As long as

I can remember Mona Lisa Saloy
Humming along, the band lives,
Every goodbye a lie.  Everyone

Of them carries the weight
He chose.  And plays it.  No theft. 
No rape.  No flood.  No.  Not in
This moment.  Not in this lovely

Sunlit room of my mind.  Holy.
So the Bible says, in the beginning,
A black woman.  I am alive.  You?
Alive.  You born with the nerve

To arrive yawning.  You who walk
Without noticing your feet
On an early morning swept hard-

Wood floor. This because Eve,
Because Lucy.  This the whole

Toe of the boot of America tapping.

3.
Poetry is where
I understand
I am nothing
If I can't sit
For awhile
In the audience
Or alone, sit down
Awhile and thank
God the chair
Is still warm.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by Jericho Brown. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Copyright © 2016 by Jericho Brown. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown

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.

by this poet

poem
“O Blood of the River of songs,
O songs of the River of Blood,”
       Let me lie down. Let my words

Lie sound in the mouths of men
Repeating invocations pure
       And perfect as a moan

That mounts in the mouth of Bessie Smith.
Blues for the angels kicked out
       Of heaven. Blues for the angels

Who miss
2
poem
I spent what light Saturday sent sweating
And learned to cuss cutting grass for women
Kind enough to say they couldn’t tell the damned
Difference between their mowed lawns
And their vacuumed carpets just before
Handing over a five-dollar bill rolled tighter
Than a joint and asking me in to change
A few light
poem

 

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