Sprinkle my ashes

across the north side of Chicago

& the surrounding suburbs.


the south side has seen

too many black boys

become the end

of a flame.

  • “In the Event of My Demise” 

After reading the introduction to Nate Marshall’s Blood Percussion, I was deeply moved, but a little worried that the pieces would be so grounded in the world of Chicago, that I wouldn’t be able to fit inside the words. Then, I remembered, that’s a really dumb way to think about reading poetry – or reading anything really. The whole purpose of reading – at least for me – is to become the speaker, and feel whatever they feel in whatever context I’m able to relate.

when Michelle Obama was

asked about her fear of racists

killing her husband now that he was running for president

she said he’s a black man

on the South Side, he can die

any day. at the gas station

or grocery store.

            – from “Mama Says”

The easy flow, almost jazz-poetic feel of Marshall’s approach to difficult moments makes it pretty simple to slide into the shoes of our speaker. The love letter interludes – which include numbers to represent the Chicago homicides during the 2007-2008 school year – are childlike, but pack a cautious smile to pay attention, to love deep, to always know your surroundings, to remind that everything can change in an instant.


I’ll stay with you.

even after

the streetlights come

on or don’t.

 Nate Marshall’s words speak with me, rather than at me. These characters are not accusatory, or finger pointing, but rather showing me all I need to know about the love and danger of where he’s from – and in turn, where I’m from, even though it’s not.

Grief is not easy to capture; it’s especially difficult when trying to speak through experiences the reader may not be able to grasp. Nate Marshall’s Blood Percussion easily accomplishes this goal.

Purchase your copy of Blood Percussion at Button Poetry. 

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Word Salad and commented:
    Fantastic review of Nate Marshall’s “Blood Percussion.” I remember reading these same poems in the aftermath of the Darren Wilson verdict, when everything seemed to be unfair and horrible. And these poems reminded me, things have been unfair and horrible for a long time.

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