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About this poet

Shane McCrae is the author of six books of poetry: The Gilded Auction Block (forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux), In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Animal Too Big to Kill (Persea Books, 2015), winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award; Forgiveness Forgiveness (Factory Hollow Press, 2014); Blood (Noemi Press, 2013); and Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011). He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City. 

Lines Composed at 34 North Park Street, on Certain Memories of My White Grandmother Who Loved Me and Hated Black People Like Myself. July 15, 2017

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 the back    seat we were we my grand-

mother and I were passing the it must


Have been a mall    but I have tried    and can’t

Remember any malls in Austin at

The time America but do I really


Remember Austin really    I remember

This thing that happened    once when I was passing

A mall in Austin so    the mall so Austin


But then and when America will my

Grandmother be    my memories of her her-

self be replaced by memories of just


Her presence near    important or unusu-

al things that happened does that happen will

That happen we     America we were


Anyway passing     on a city street

But next to it the    mall and actually

I might have been in the front seat actually


And maybe it was    winter all the windows

Were rolled up maybe or at least the one

Right next to me    in the front seat Amer-


ica when for    no reason I could see the

Window exploded    glass swallowed me    the way

A cloudburst swallows a car    glass and a


Great stillness    flying glass and stillness both

Together    then the stillness left    and I

Jumped either over my    seat or between


The seats    into the back America

Or neither    here I might just be remem-

bering the one real accident I’ve ever


Been in I was    a child still maybe seven

Or nine and we    were in an intersec-

tion hit    and I for sure jumped then my grand-

mother and I again already my

Memories of the Datsun breaking seem

More solid than my memories of her


America    but I remember her

Mobile home filling up with trash    until

She couldn’t walk through any room    and still she


Walked through her rooms she walked the way I walk

Through stores    suspicious    and aloof watched e-

ven by the products I consume consumed


By you America    O cloud of glass

Copyright © 2018 Shane McCrae. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Shane McCrae. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.

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


The man said I could see them if I wanted

He said     America would never be

A place where we could     live together not at

Least in my lifetime     but the damned don’t see

No     important differences     between the Ne-

gro and the White the damned     don’t see no bad



Nicholas turned     eleven two

Months he ago a he ago

I after him a-running still

But quietly and far away

For the first time turned     far away

Without me or     without that day

Me seeing him on all the bright-

ness gone     the day     the snow had gone

Brother is we is each of us we ghosts

Brother of white folks we

don't never known us brother we

Because we never doesn't fits

Nowhere we brother

doesn't fits in bodies

Our bodies we is always walking leaking

like a ghost can't be a body in one place

But every eyes     / Catches and pulls at it