A Poem: “Bullet Points”

Portrait of Jericho Brown

Bullet Points

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 trash bag, 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.


Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Creative Writing

Brown serves as the director of the Creative Writing program in Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and has received numerous awards and fellowships for his writing, including the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his collection of poems titled The Tradition.

Portrait of Jericho Brown
Portrait of Jericho Brown
Portrait of Jericho Brown


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