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By Nate Marshall

we’re trying to eliminate the shack.
 — Kristen Pierce, Harold’s CEO & daughter of founder Harold Pierce

when i went to summer camp the white kids had a tendency

to shorten names of important institutions. make Northwestern

University into NU. international relations into IR. everybody

started calling me Nate. before this i imagined myself

Nathaniel A. maybe even N. Armstead to big up my granddad.

i wrote my whole name on everything. eventually i started

unintentionally introducing myself as Nate. it never occurred

to me that they could escape the knowing of my name’s

real length. as a shorty

most the kids in my neighborhood couldn’t say my name.

Mick-daniel, Nick-thaniel, MacDonnel shot across the courts

like wild heaves toward the basket. the subconscious visual

of a chicken shack seems a poor fit for national expansion.

Harold’s Chicken is easier, sounds like Columbus’s flag stuck

into a cup of cole slaw. shack sounds too much like home

of poor people, like haven for weary

like building our own.                                        


The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

This poem is from Wild Hundreds by Nate Marshall, © 2015, reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Poetry (December 2015)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living

Poet Bio

Nate Marshall
Nate Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. He was the star of the award winning full-length documentary Louder Than a Bomb and has been featured on the HBO original series Brave New Voices. Marshall received the 2014 Hurston/Wright Founding Members Award for College Writers and the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. He is a visiting assistant professor at Wabash College.  See More By This Poet

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