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3 poems by Shane McCrae

November Light, 2023

Always but imperceptible

By living eyes the light from things

Events at any distance inches

Even the light from things events

Because it has to travel you

See the event thing after it

Happens a living person sees

It not to say the dead would see

Anything quicker see the instant

It happens not to say the dead

See things events without the aid

Of light but we the living see

After on Earth an interval

Too brief to notice things events

On Earth some stars are dead of course

And how would anybody notice

Perceive the event thing happening

Before they see it happening

The looked-at thing event not touch

The signals have to travel not

Sound sound is so much slower children

Do math between the flash and crack

Of the same bolt not smell no smells

Are slow as air unless the corpse

Is hidden in the walls unless

The corpse is hidden in the bushes

But maybe if the corpse is hidden

In light itself behind a screen

The air the living person breathed

Will take ten thousand lives to reach you

Blank Verse Sonnet on Purity

America your blood is poisoned Lord

Help you it’s poisoned and no God can help you

America nah what you need is bleach

I read it in a headline bleach and sunlight

Back when the president was president

America just open up a vein

A big one let the sunlight in the bleach

I bet it’s gotta feel like when you’re hot

So hot you see a bottle of cold water

And it looks good and when you drink it you

Can feel that coldness falling to your belly

America I bet that’s how it feels

To clean your blood to make your insides white

Except the cold is everywhere forever

To Who Sweeps the Floor, to Who Flattens the Heap

My soles were cut from something big

And flat a fusion of old waste

That by the cutting was made new

A heap of new now interlaced

The sheared-off parts of useful bodies

By gravity and circumstance

That had once been not parts but wholly

Bodies will dance their final dance

Across the floor to after-music

The hush-hush song of the big broom

Who sweeps the severed body parts

Away gets paid to clean the room

And pile the heap and someone else

Flattens the heaped-up parts together

Please let my soul and body not

Be buried in the same forever


Shane McCrae’s most recent books of poetry, both published by Corsair, are The Many Hundreds of the Scent, and Cain Named the Animal, a finalist for the Forward Prize. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.


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