F. Douglas Brown is the author of two poetry collections: ICON (Writ Large Press, 2018), and Zero to Three (University of Georgia, 2014), winner of the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize selected by US Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith. Brown holds fellowships from both Cave Canem and Kundiman, and was selected by Poets & Writers as one of their ten notable Debut Poets of 2014. His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, such as The Academy of American Poets, The PBS News Hour, The Virginia Quarterly (VQR), The Chicago Quarterly Review (CQR), The Southern Humanities Review, Faultline, and Furious Flower: seeding the future of African American Poetry, The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles to name a few.

An educator for 25 years, Brown currently teaches full-time at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, while also serving as the Poet in Residence at the University of California, Irvine.

He is co-founder and co-curator of two transformative reading series: un::fade::able and The Friday Framework. The un::fade::able series, The Requiem for Sandra Bland, and The Friday Framework. Each reading series examines restorative justice through poetry as a means to address racism. The Friday Framework, hosted by Hidden Timber Books, featuring BIPOC poets whose work examines how to create better societal or personal structures.

Poems from ICON:

Begotten :: February, 1818

Douglass Panel 1

Black runs wild in Talbot.
Runs like the river runs
Through water,
Runs like a child
Through childhood.

The women do chores
In the middle of this.
Do the bulk of black living.
They hold stars on their heads.
Call the gold, grain,
Or call the gold, East.
Call it, ripe for the pluck, or safe
Passage. Say, make a move,
And call it, gone.

So much black everywhere.
Ubiquitous on trees,
Grows in a buzz
On elbows, streaks
The reeds, and strides across
The plains. A crooked
Hand out of the sand
Black hand of God, Save us.

But the white men approach,
Holding what could be shovels
Or rifles. Trying to dig
Or shoot God gone,
Right out of sight.

And still, here is this
Baby, born unto this land
In these match stick
Boxes, born unto the silt
As bold as black lighting
Or a tree. He’s a quake,
Cracking the earth
From limb to limb.

Darkness, My Mother

Douglass Panel 2

My restlessness, from my mother.
Her gift to tell a tale into the wood & dirt
Feeds me for the rest of my life.

She cups gold for me, butter
Or could be a cookie, a coin for a ferryman.
Could be a canary or just a candle

To guide her. Twelve miles
Of danger, and back to danger. Massa,
I ain’t no fool, been here all along.

A lie worth the gamble, worth the luck.
She could disappear through
The seams, the boarded wall, and into

The nowhere of night.
But I’ve come to love the blue diamond
Darkness—her risk keeps these quarters

Taut. Her grip in the huddled light,
Only has a few glimmers left.
Corn bread, coated with sugar

Or just the corn. Might be a shirt,
Her name stitched across
The yoke I will grow into.

Pieta Ghazal: Harriet Tubman Mourns for Freddie Gray
for Freddie Gray

Tubman Panel 29

I return to deliver a hurt clean—
I come to lay a boy to rest— His clean,

Sparks, yanks me from the past— I’m vibrant,
Again— an angel caressing him into a clean
Baby sleep— Yes, Lawd, again, I’m the one guiding
Saints— I knows which roots will heal a boy, clean—

Knows all kinds of elusive, elixirs to turn women into tiptoe-
Fog-whisper— My herbs had men ghost-walking clean

Through fortress walls, damn its thickness— Worked,
So this boy could stitch freedom on his sleeve— clean—

O sweet Baltimore boy, did you bring me back for
Tricks & chats, ‘cuz I can’t conjure a clean

Pulse in you— This resurrection, too
Late to save, restoring the clean

Merit of our folks— Too late for fear to strike out
And stunt your bolt, so I’m left with this clean

Option: Be Moses of the drift, pulled here to lead you home—
Here to soothe and sing you clean— honorably clean


F. Douglas Brown



© 2021 F. Douglas Brown


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