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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.                                        

Notes:

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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