We do not recognize the body

Of Emmett Till. We do not know

The boy’s name nor the sound

Of his mother wailing. We have

Never heard a mother wailing. 

We do not know the history

Of ourselves in this nation. We

Do not know the history of our

Selves on this planet because

We do not have to know

What we believe we own. We believe

We own your bodies but have no

Use for your tears. We destroy 

The body that refuses use. We use 

Maps we did not draw. We see 

A sea so cross it. We see a moon 

So land there. We love land so 

Long as we can take it. Shhh. We 

Can’t take that sound. What is 

A mother wailing? We do not

Recognize music until we can 

Sell it. We sell what cannot be

Bought. We buy silence. Let us

Help you. How much does it cost

To hold your breath underwater? 

Wait. Wait. What are we? What?

What? What on Earth are we?

Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Best American Poetry, among others. His first book, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the American Book Award, and his second, The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Thom Gunn Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is an associate professor in English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta.