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Poet of the Week: Jericho Brown

(Cambridge, MA - April 21, 2010) - Jericho Brown, who teaches creative writing as an assistant professor of English at the University of San Diego, is a Radcliffe Fellow, working on his second collection, ìThe New Testament.î The manuscript includes poems chronicling the lives of television news anchors who came to popularity in the 1980s and their reporting on the AIDS epidemic. He is pictured in the Radcliffe Gymnasium before his poetry reading. Staff Photo Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University News Office
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Labor

I spent what light Saturday sent sweating
And learned to cuss cutting grass for women
Kind enough to say they couldn’t tell the damned
Difference between their mowed lawns
And their vacuumed carpets just before
Handing over a five-dollar bill rolled tighter
Than a joint and asking me in to change
A few lightbulbs. I called those women old
Because they wouldn’t move out of a chair
Without my help or walk without a hand
At the base of their backs. I called them
Old, and they must have been; they’re all dead
Now, dead and in the earth I once tended.
The loneliest people have the earth to love
And not one friend their own age—only
Mothers to baby them and big sisters to boss
Them around, women they want to please
And pray for the chance to say please to.
I don’t do that kind of work anymore. My job
Is to look at the childhood I hated and say
I once had something to do with my hands.

Jericho Brown’s Poets Tour Profile