Jericho BrownUSAWriting2015

Of the Swan


The luck of it:  an ordinary body

Soothed once            


Under God.  No night ends his

Care, how


He finishes a fixed field, how he



A low tunnel.  He released me 

After.  Why


Else would I pray like a woman

Who’s ruined


A man’s ever-bitter extremity? 

Men die,


But God’s soul rises out of its black

Noose, finds


Bared skin a landscape prepared

For use


Where worship makes for immortality,

And I am


The Lord’s opening, a woman

On earth


With pluck, with sting, with feathers

Left round my hide.



Second Language


You come with a little

Black string tied

Around your tongue,

Knotted to remind

Where you came from

And why you left

Behind photographs

Of people whose

Names need no

Pronouncing.  How

Do you say God

Now that the night

Rises sooner?  How

Dare you wake to work

Before any alarm?

I am the man asking,

The great grandson

Made so by the dead

Tenant farmers promised

A plot of land to hew.

They thought they could

Own the dirt they were

Bound to.  In that part

Of the country, a knot

Is something you

Get after getting knocked

Down, and story means

Lie.  In your part

Of the country, class

Means school, this room

Where we practice

Words like rope in our

Hope to undo your

Tongue, so you can tell

A lie or break a promise

Or grow like a story.