Whose Story of Us We Is Told Is Us

Brother is we is each of us we ghosts

Brother of white folks we

don't never known us brother we

Because we never doesn't fits

Nowhere we brother

doesn't fits in bodies



Our bodies we is always walking leaking

like a ghost can't be a body in one place

But every eyes     / Catches and pulls at it

Like every eyes in any

white folks is another

Hole in our bodies



Brother     / Is we is never known them close

Up close     whose ghosts we brother leaking is

Whose story of us we is told is us     is water in a fist

Brother we not the fist

we not the water

we the thirst

More by Shane McCrae

The Ballad of Cathay Williams William Cathay


A white man wouldn't less

He stripped me naked was

Whipping me know

I was a woman     got

A name just turn

It inside out

And I'm a man

How else I'm gonna know myself

When I am called




A white man wouldn't twice I had

Smallpox twice after     I enlisted

twice and had / To be

hospitalized both times

Ain't never once

no doctor nor no nurse

Discovered me

No for no white woman

I wouldn't have

nothing for her to see

She would want me to know she seen

And I was watching close

How else I'm gone to know myself

When I am called




And what she see is anyway

how is she gonna know for sure

Black man ain't got

a hole down there

How is she know he ain't

A white man born wrong inside out

and twice as big and mean

And got a hole go twice as deep to hell

How is that woman sure

of anything at all

How else I'm etc

The Best Thing Anyone Ever Said About Paul Celan

Today you will the     say the any ever

best thing any ever anyone

Said about Paul Celan

The world is if it isn’t     does it matter isn’t



waiting     or it might be might as well

Be if it knew     and some

People for some     people the wait is mostly it’s

a world in which the fact of Paul Celan



was and is always will have been and be

A fact and necessary     living in such a world

is the far greater agony the wait is no

agony     not compared to living in that world it is



Absurd to say he wouldn’t Paul Celan would recognize it still

No person ever is naive

but populations are naive and always will be

even innocent



is the far greater agony

It is     / More like a toothache

the pain of the wait for some

More like a pain in the hole from which



You even now prepare yourself to speak

The Shoots

Nicholas turned     eleven two

Months he ago a he ago

I after him a-running still

But quietly and far away


For the first time turned     far away

Without me or     without that day

Me seeing him on all the bright-

ness gone     the day     the snow had gone


Completely gone     as we have gone

Who were the worlds we walked     far down

Into our lives without each oth-

er as     snow into earth as water


Goes into earth     and as the water

Touches the roots the dry roots wait for

A signal from the sun and air

And do not green the shoots     and what


The water thought it was and what

I thought I was we learn we’re not we’re

Life but not always life and not

Forever     he grows without his father
 

Related Poems

A Story

Everyone loves a story. Let's begin with a house.
We can fill it with careful rooms and fill the rooms
with things—tables, chairs, cupboards, drawers
closed to hide tiny beds where children once slept
or big drawers that yawn open to reveal
precisely folded garments washed half to death,
unsoiled, stale, and waiting to be worn out.
There must be a kitchen, and the kitchen
must have a stove, perhaps a big iron one
with a fat black pipe that vanishes into the ceiling
to reach the sky and exhale its smells and collusions.
This was the center of whatever family life
was here, this and the sink gone yellow
around the drain where the water, dirty or pure, 
ran off with no explanation, somehow like the point
of this, the story we promised and may yet deliver.
Make no mistake, a family was here. You see
the path worn into the linoleum where the wood,
gray and certainly pine, shows through.
Father stood there in the middle of his life
to call to the heavens he imagined above the roof
must surely be listening. When no one answered
you can see where his heel came down again
and again, even though he'd been taught
never to demand. Not that life was especially cruel;
they had well water they pumped at first,
a stove that gave heat, a mother who stood
at the sink at all hours and gazed longingly
to where the woods once held the voices
of small bears—themselves a family—and the songs
of birds long fled once the deep woods surrendered
one tree at a time after the workmen arrived
with jugs of hot coffee. The worn spot on the sill
is where Mother rested her head when no one saw,
those two stained ridges were handholds
she relied on; they never let her down.
Where is she now? You think you have a right
to know everything? The children tiny enough
to inhabit cupboards, large enough to have rooms
of their own and to abandon them, the father
with his right hand raised against the sky?
If those questions are too personal, then tell us,
where are the woods? They had to have been
because the continent was clothed in trees.
We all read that in school and knew it to be true.
Yet all we see are houses, rows and rows
of houses as far as sight, and where sight vanishes
into nothing, into the new world no one has seen,
there has to be more than dust, wind-borne particles
of burning earth, the earth we lost, and nothing else.