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Nate Marshall

Nate Marshall is the author of Wild Hundreds (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), and an editor, with Kevin Coval and Quraysh Ali Lansana, of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015). He is a member of the Dark Noise Collective, a Cave Canem Fellow, and the Director of National Programs for Young Chicago Authors and the Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival. He lives on the South Side of Chicago. 

By This Poet

2

picking flowers

Grandma’s rosebush
reminiscent of a Vice Lord’s do-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.

the valley of its making

for Page

poetry makes nothing happen
—W. H. Auden

the people in the streets
are plucked up like
radishes from dark earth,
heads beat the purplish-red
of ripeness. the women lead
the stupid & brutish to a
future they don’t deserve.
the organized are still
unbearably human, they
still fuck & hurt & harm
& are not actually sorry.
the people still fight
each other too much &
the system not enough
& too often it is not a fight
but a bullet. too many men
want to be in the front
& don’t want to march
anywhere in particular.
some of us have degrees
& noses to look down. 
so many want a version
of old days that never
existed. many are still unwilling
to grow a vocabulary for personhood,
even from the words already in them.
so many will deny they to a sibling
simply because. our people are
messy & messed up & a mess.
nothing about our people is romantic
& it shouldn’t be. our people deserve
poetry without meter. we deserve our
own jagged rhythm & our own uneven
walk toward sun. you make happening happen.
we happen to love. this is our greatest
action.