I am a they in most of America.
Someone feels lost in the forest
Of we, so he can’t imagine
A single tree. He can’t bear it.
A cross. A crucifixion. Such
A Christian. All that wood
Headed his way in the fact
Of a man or a woman who
Might as well be a secret, so
Serious his need to see inside.
To cut down. To tell. How
Old will I get to be in a nation
That believes we can grow out
Of a grave? Can reach. Climb
High as the First State Bank.
Take a bullet. Break through
Concrete. The sidewalk.
The street someone crosses
When he sees wilderness where
He wanted his city. His cross-
Tie. His telephone pole.
Timber. Timbre. It’s an awful
Sound, and people pay to hear
It. People say bad things about
Me, though they don’t know
My name. I have a name.
A stake. I settle. Dig. Die.
Go underground. Tunnel
The ocean floor. Root. Shoot
Up like a thought someone
Planted. Someone planted
An idea of me. A lie. A lawn
Jockey. The myth of a wooded
Hamlet in America, a thicket,
Hell, a patch of sunlit grass
Where any one of us bursts into
One someone as whole as we.


Jericho Brown, “Stake” from The Tradition. Copyright © 2019 by Jericho Brown. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org. All rights reserved.