Poetry by Shane McCrae

Image by Santiago Sepúlveda / santiagosepulveda.weebly.com

Banjo Yes Recalls His First Movies


Most of the time I spent

In the beginning most of the time between


Takes I spent chasing after

their filth in my mind


They had me playing

Servants and when the cameras stopped I kept on cleaning


In those days I had been

Running from one     / End of the lot to the other for


Years and they what it was was what the white folks did was you was like

A mind in something in a body but     that body wasn’t yours


I’ll tell you what it was like what it was like was that body was

A second mind / Talking


your body was a voice like you was talking to yourself

Telling you do what you supposed to do white


folks the way they talk about

Their cars     their houses     niggers they talk like


Owning a thing a man is something they / Do with their hands

and niggers     / We got to be / Free if we ain’t in chains


Well back when I was starting out the only talking I could do on screen was talking

chains around myself


And who was it who

Paid me to talk


White folks     give you a choice

and they / Act like they’re giving you a gift


You can be free

Or you can live

Shane McCrae has written four full-length books of poems—Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center; finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a PEN Center USA Literary Award), Blood (Noemi Press), Forgiveness Forgiveness (Factory Hollow Press), and The Animal Too Big to Kill (Persea Books; winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award)—and three chapbooks. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a JD from Harvard Law School.