Say thank you say I'm sorry by Jericho Brown

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Portrait of Jericho, a young black man and a talented poet

This content was originally published via the NY Times on June 15, 2020. The Pulitzer Prize -winning poet, Jericho Brown writes for the Book Review about life during the pandemic.

Jericho Brown will be leading a live virtual workshop in conjunction with Wild Rice Retreat this summer. Please see his workshop details here “Writing the Duplex” on July 10, 2021 from 2-4 pm. We hope you can join us.


Say Thank You Say I’m Sorry

I don’t know whose side you’re on,

But I am here for the people

Who work in grocery stores that glow in the morning

And close down for deep cleaning at night

Right up the street and in cities I mispronounce,

In towns too tiny for my big black

Car to quit, and in every wide corner

Of Kansas where going to school means

At least one field trip

To a slaughterhouse. I want so little: another leather bound

Book, a gimlet with a lavender gin, bread

So good when I taste it I can tell you

How it’s made. I’d like us to rethink

What it is to be a nation. I’m in a mood about America

Today. I have PTSD

About the Lord. God save the people who work

In grocery stores. They know a bit of glamour

Is a lot of glamour. They know how much

It costs for the eldest of us to eat. Save

My loves and not my sentences. Before I see them,

I draw a mole near my left dimple,

Add flair to the smile they can’t see

Behind my mask. I grin or lie or maybe

I wear the mouth of a beast. I eat wild animals

While some of us grow up knowing

What gnocchi is. The people who work at the grocery don’t care.

They say, Thank you. They say, Sorry,

We don’t sell motor oil anymore with a grief so thick

You could touch it. Go on. Touch it.

It is early. It is late. They have washed their hands.

They have washed their hands for you.

And they take the bus home.

Find more of Jericho’s work on his website or by following him on Instagram at @jerichobrown1