I still believe in God. What else keeps me
From slaughter? Who else holds the butcher’s hand?
Sweet slaughter. Though I’d pray, Give me butcher’s hands,
Matthew baked me cakes as if I could be saved.
He baked spice cake, humming as if we were safe,
As if this weren’t the land of milk and money.
We can’t survive this nation of white money,
Says the black man as his excuse for malice.
What black man needs an excuse for malice?
Why mask the salt? No sugar is that sweet.
My pressure’s high. No sugar could make me sweet
If he came back today, if he forgave me.
Since he won’t come back, won’t forgive me,
I believe in God. Who else would keep me?
Until further notice Poetry Daily will devote Wednesdays to What Keeps Us, an impromptu series featuring poems that sustain and uplift through trying times. Each poem is accompanied with an image by author-illustrator Juana Medina (http://www.juanamedina.com). We thank you for reading and hope that you will share poems with your friends and neighbors. Please be well.
Copyright © 2020 by Jericho Brown
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of the collection The Tradition (2019), which was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award and the winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His poems have appeared in Buzzfeed, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Time, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry anthologies. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta.
*Edited by Derek Sheffield, Elizabeth Dodd, and Simmons Buntin*
America is at a crossroads. Conflicting political and social perspectives reflect a need to collectively define our moral imperatives, clarify cultural values, and inspire meaningful change. In that patriotic spirit, nearly two hundred writers, artists, scientists, and political and community leaders have come together since the 2016 presidential election to offer their impassioned letters to America, in a project envisioned by the online journal Terrain.org and collected, with 50 never-before-published letters, in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy.
"These letters come from a deep, real love of this place, and they imagine willing, receptive readers on the other end. We need a series of miracles looking forward, and this is one."
“You should carry Dear America onto the battlefield and into classrooms! It's a tool to sharpen the mind, see injustice, and raise as a weapon.”
—Jimmy Santiago Baca