5 Stunning Poems by Jericho Brown to Read Today

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Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

My first year living in New York City, I heard Jericho Brown recite at a poetry reading and got goosebumps. Jericho Brown poems are stunning. But there are so many other words to describe them: emotional, sexual, vulnerable. To borrow a sentiment from Walt Whitman, the poems contain the multitudes of his identity as a Black gay poet living in the American South. His words tell stories while making use of Christian references and allusions to ancient mythology. They feel both timely and universal—like most great art.

I could keep gushing, but I won’t. Because reading Jericho Brown’s poems will be infinitely more enriching than my descriptions of them.

1.) “Hustle”


They lie like stones and dare not shift. Even asleep, everyone hears in prison.
Dwayne Betts deserves more than this dry ink for his teenage years in prison.

In the film we keep watching, Nina takes Darius to a steppers ball.

Lovers hustle, slide, dip as if one of them has no brother in prison.

I dine with humans who think any book full of black characters is about race.
A book full of white characters examines insanity near—but never in—prison.

His whole family made a barricade of their bodies at the door to room 403.

He died without the man he wanted. What use is love at home or in prison?

2. “Dear Dr. Frankenstein”


I, too, know the science of building men
Out of fragments in little light
Where I’ll be damned if lightning don’t

Strike as I forget one
May have a thief’s thumb,

Another, a murderer’s arm,
And watch the men I’ve made leave
Like an idea I meant to write down,

Like a vehicle stuck
In reverse, like the monster

3. “Another Elegy”


This is what our dying looks like.
You believe in the sun. I believe
I can’t love you. Always be closing,
Said our favorite professor before
He let the gun go off in his mouth.
I turned 29 the way any man turns
In his sleep, unaware of the earth
Moving beneath him, its plates in
Their places, a dated disagreement.

4. “Duplex”

5. Host


We want pictures of everything
Below your waist, and we want
Pictures of your waist. We can’t
Talk right now, but we will text you
Into coitus. All thumbs. All bi
Coastal and discreet and masculine
And muscular. No whites. Every
Body a top. We got a career
To think about. No face. We got
Kids to remember. No one over 29.

When you finish these five poems and inevitably want to read more Jericho Brown Poems, his newest book The Tradition 0r the collection The New Testament are both beautiful places to keep exploring this stunning language.