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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.

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2
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
2
poem

To believe in God is to love
What none can see. Let a lover go,

Let him walk out with the good
Spoons or die

Without a signature, and so much
Remains for scrubbing, for a polish

Cleaner than devotion. Tonight,
God is one spot, and you,

You must be one