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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 14, 2018
About this Poem 

“The state-sanctioned murder and capitalist-motivated mass incarceration of black and brown people makes it seem as if they aren't indeed people at all. But here we are, as resilient as the sonnet: fathers, daughters, sons... We survive knowing the imagination of this great nation depends on our demise.”
—Jericho Brown

A Young Man

We stand together on our block, me and my son,
Neighbors saying our face is the same, but I know
He’s better than me: when other children move

Toward my daughter, he lurches like a brother
Meant to put them down. He is a bodyguard
On the playground. He won’t turn apart from her,

Empties any enemy, leaves them flimsy, me
Confounded. I never fought for so much—
I calmed my daughter when I could cradle

My daughter; my son swaggers about her. 
He won’t have to heal a girl he won’t let free. 
They are so small. And I, still, am a young man.

In him lives my black anger made red.
They play. He is not yet incarcerated.

Copyright © 2018 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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
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
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
I don’t want to hurt a man, but I like to hear one beg.
Two people touch twice a month in ten hotels, and
We call it long distance. He holds down one coast.
I wander the other like any African American, Africa
With its condition and America with its condition
And black folk born in this nation content to carry
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