This is the book of three
Diseases. Close it, and you’re caught
Running from my life, nearer its end now
That you’ve come so far for a man
Sick in his blood, left lung, and mind.
I think of him mornings
I wake panting like a runner after
His best time. He sweats. He stops
Facing what burned. The house
That graced this open lot was
A red brick. Children played there—
Two boys, their father actually
Came home. Mama cooked
As if she had a right to
The fire in her hands, to the bread I ate
Before I saw doctors who help me
Fool you into believing
I do anything other than the human thing.
We breathe until we don’t.
Every last word is contagious.
Jericho Brown is the author of The New Testament (Copper Canyon, 2014), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry from the Publishing Triangle (and a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry). His first collection, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Jericho has received the Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland. He is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Emory University and lives in Atlanta.
This poem originally appeared in The New Testament and is reprinted with the kind permission of Copper Canyon Press.