Monday Jun 24

MarshallNate Nate Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. He is co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. His first book, Wild Hundreds, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press. He serves as a Zell Postgraduate Fellow at the University of Michigan. A Cave Canem Fellow, his work has appeared in Poetry, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Nate won the 2014 Hurston/Wright Founding Members Award and the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. He is a founding member of the poetry collective Dark Noise. He is also a rapper.


go west homeboy.                    274 toward the suburbs Daddy driving & you
at his side. bag in back.                                   go west homeboy.                    the road
warm in front of you.                                      summer & bootleg sunglasses.
            go west homeboy.                   his face from summer camp blurs
in your eye.                you exchanged numbers & a keep in touch but
you did not expect it.              go west homeboy.                    at County

Line Road when you exit there’s a building with a golden dome,

a bank or house

        of prayer.                     go west homeboy.       turn into the neighborhood

& search for the house.                                   a school
sized building has the address & Daddy pulls up around back.
go west homeboy.                                the home is on a hill.
the driveway leans you back like a rollercoaster.       
go west homeboy.        the blur stands
at the top with his pops. pastel polos & the same faces smiling.
                                    go west.

off white

dark green in a city, on a building, might mean
a park district, a fieldhouse, that color is dull,
maybe its off-forest or semi-olive.

maybe in the fieldhouse there’s a basketball
gym upstairs with crooked floorboards,
the smell of musk & mold & something

sort of green. the air tastes like chlorine
wafting from the pool downstairs.
i was there every week ready to play

or maybe ready to be played by coach
or referee. the beginning of each game
was an awkward pledge

to fairness maybe, something of that
sort but i can’t recall. our team was
a different shade from the catholic

school boys we played.
maybe that was the allegiance or
the line the refs saw when

they called balls out of bounds
on the right side of the baseline.
or maybe that was the thought when

one boy smashed me over the head
with a heavy forearm. he was a mess
of freckles & brown hair clumped

sweaty into a cat o’ nine tails. maybe that
was blocking the referees view.
something about those colors

all around & all a little wrong,
a little faded, or dull, or dark
or something like that.

picking flowers

Grandma’s rosebush
reminiscent of a Vicelord’s du-rag.
the unfamiliar bloom in Mrs. Bradley’s yard
banging a Gangster Disciple style blue.
the dandelions all over the park putting on
Latin King gold like the Chicano cats
over east before they turn into a puff
of smoke like all us colored boys.

picking dandelions will ruin your hands,
turn their smell into a bitter cologne.

a man carries flowers for 3 reasons:
                   -he is in love
           -he is in mourning
           -he is a flower salesman

i’m on the express train passing stops
to a woman. maybe she’s home.
i have a bouquet in my hand,
laid on 1 of my arms like a shotgun.
the color is brilliant, a gang war
wrapped & cut diagonal at the stems.
i am not a flower salesman.
that is the only thing i know.


low crouch, point into no
where. there is no happiness
here, the seat of deceit. brother
pull you out; big brother keep you
in. you victim, you victor, you
ball for hitting or wall for not
moving. you vast immovable,
unhurting thing like those before.

this is cruel double dutch.
this is all time & time
& go. hop in, sit & eat.
think as little as you can.
man-making take time.
you putting in your time.
tic & tic & tic
& bloodsucker & such.