Jericho Brown


From bed to dresser drawer
And all while rolling latex down
He’d whistle, and I felt
Daily at first, a chore, a long walk
Without trees. If anyone,
I should have known—
I who hate for people to comment
That I must be happy
Just because they hear me hum.
I want to ask
If they ever heard of slavery,
The work song—the best music
Is made of subtraction,
The singer seeks an exit from the scarred body
And opens his mouth
Trying to get out.
Or at least this is how I came to understand
Willie whistling his way into me.
What was my last name? Did he remember?
Had I said? We both wanted to be rid of desire,
How it made even the shower
A rigorous experience. It driving
My coughing Corolla across Highway 90
At the darkest time of morning. It opening
His dead-bolted door.
Us splayed as if for punishment
At every corner of the carpet. Then
Pause for the condom,
Elastic ache against death
Heavy in his hand,
And something our fingernails couldn’t reach
Itching out a song. He was not content.
He was not bored.
If I had known the location of my own runaway
Breath, I too would have found a blues.
Poor Willie, whistling around my last name,
Wrapping his gift in safety. Poor me, thinking
If the man moves inside me
I must be empty, if I hide
Inside the man I must be cold.

Jericho Brown
“Pause” is from Please (New Issues, 2008).