Shane McCrae



A colored man came said he would

Take care of him good

care and pay me five


Dollars a month his name is my

Brother he is about

fourteen years old his name is James


Robinson and the man who took him his

Name is Dan Cal

Five dollars for his labor his


Name is Dan Cal

I didn’t know

The man before but now I know him I has heard of him


From folks in town and elsewhere in the county in town     passing through

He sold my brother to a white man named McCree

They has been working him in prison for twelve month


And they won’t send him back to me

he has / No mother and no father Mr. President they are

both dead     / I am his only friend


My brother have not done

Nothing for them to have him in

Chains and I saw no money


I believe     / Dan Cal lives high on it

He does if anybody

gets paid for a colored man’s work


Mr. President but I will tell you I believe

Nobody does

us / Colored folks don’t     make money we make food


For other folks to eat

And air for other folks to breathe

Except us colored folks don’t


make those things we are those things / I mend a white man’s

coat I am his coat

With every stitch I stitch


my skin on tighter

By now my brother he’s a pile of rocks

I know they got him breaking rocks


With every rock

He breaks he breaks himself

and he is more himself


Like he was always meant to be

that pile of rocks

But I’m afraid I wouldn’t know him if I saw him now


I write for you to help me / Mr. President I know you must be

Busy if I’m a coat

I can’t imagine what you are


SHANE MCCRAE is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Animal Too Big To Kill (Persea Books, 2015) and Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010). He teaches at Oberlin College.


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