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Bullet Points by Jericho Brown – poem


The Pulitzer prize winner’s anguished response to the routine threat presented to black men by the US police has been widely shared since George Floyd’s death

I will not shoot myself
In the head, and I will not shoot myself
In the back, and I will not hang myself
With a trashbag, and if I do, 
I promise you, I will not do it
In a police car while handcuffed
Or in the jail cell of a town
I only know the name of
Because I have to drive through it
To get home. Yes, I may be at risk,
But I promise you, I trust the maggots
Who live beneath the floorboards
Of my house to do what they must
To any carcass more than I trust
An officer of the law of the land
To shut my eyes like a man
Of God might, or to cover me with a sheet
So clean my mother could have used it
To tuck me in. When I kill me, I will
Do it the same way most Americans do, 
I promise you: cigarette smoke
Or a piece of meat on which I choke
Or so broke I freeze 
In one of these winters we keep
Calling worst. I promise if you hear
Of me dead anywhere near
A cop, then that cop killed me. He took 
Me from us and left my body, which is, 
No matter what we’ve been taught, 
Greater than the settlement
A city can pay a mother to stop crying,
And more beautiful than the new bullet
Fished from the folds of my brain.

Related: Jericho Brown on poetry, religion and race in the US – books podcast

The Tradition by Jericho Brown is published by Pan Macmillan in the UK. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com.

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