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Poets and Ambassadors for Conscience
by Shane McCrae

Aug 12, 2019 | Poetry

Farrar Straus Giroux

Shane McCrae is the author of several poetry collections, including Mule (2011); Blood (2013); The Animal Too Big to Kill (2015); In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017)—winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, which bolsters an understanding of racism, and a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and The Gilded Auction Block (2019), focused on Trump-era dynamics. Mr. McCrae teaches at Columbia University.



America I was born incapable

Of owning what I work for even but

It doesn’t it never mattered doesn’t mat-

ter where I went to school or where I teach

Or who America still my life belongs to

Somewhere a some white person who can’t live it

Because I’m living it America

And they would live it better easier

The way the maybe the professor would

Or maybe he was staff at Oberlin

The white man who as I was walking to

Wearing a hoodie to a meeting in

A building which was at the time a crew was

Repairing he stepped up to me and asked

So are you boys drying out the floor here

How but with my life can I answer him

Who calls me down from the gilded auction block

This is the sixth installment in our yearlong series featuring leading American poets who address issues of racism, human rights, and exile, among other social themes in their work. The project is curated by Cyrus Cassells, whose most recent book is Still Life With Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas (Stephen F. Austin University Press). “Purchase” is used by permission of Shane McCrae and Farrar Straus Giroux.

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