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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 29, 2017.
About this Poem 

“‘America Gives Its Blackness Back to Me’ was written last November in the immediate wake of the election. It was spurred by a sudden reminder that as a black person in America I am neither free to determine who I am nor free even to know the precise terms according to which I am defined by others.”
—Shane McCrae

America Gives Its Blackness Back To Me

The shadow I had carried lightly has

Been forced upon me now and heavy since

Bulky since     now and since unwieldy as

A corpse the shadow I     was born from in

 

And to I     should have known I couldn’t being

As how it wasn’t me who lifted it

Not     all the way     from me in the first place being

As how its lightness after was a gift

 

Its near-     bodilessness a gift     from those

Who bind it to me now I should have known

I couldn’t while they watched me     set it loose

 

They bind it     to my back they make it strange

That I knew     in my arms they weigh it down

With the shadow they had kept the bindings in

Copyright © 2017 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author of six poetry collections, including The Gilded Auction Block (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).  

by this poet

poem

A white man wouldn't less

He stripped me naked was

Whipping me know

I was a woman     got

A name just turn

It inside out

And I'm a man

How else I'm gonna know myself

When I am called




A white

poem

Today you will the     say the any ever

best thing any ever anyone

Said about Paul Celan

The world is if it isn’t     does it matter isn’t



waiting     or it might be might as well

Be if it knew     and some

People for some     people the

poem

America I was I think I was

Seven I think or anyway I prob-

ably was    nine    I anyway was nine

 

And riding in the back    seat of our tan

Datsun 210    which by the way Amer-

ica I can’t believe    Datsun is just

 

Gone    anyway   America I was

Riding in