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.                                        
Note to Poetry Out Loud students: This poem begins with an epigraph that must be recited. Omitting the epigraph will affect your accuracy score.
  • This poem is from Wild Hundreds by Nate Marshall, © 2015, reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

  • Source: Poetry (December 2015)

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