Lang was a fine poet and photographer and very close friend. he had a penchant for my poesy, so i gave him my latest. by the time id finished my recital, i noticed Artie had discretely interjected himself at our table. Lang and i laughed at first, i guess at how suddenly pregnant was his presence.
“shine, shine, shine,” Artie was repeating for at least the third time, “shine, shine, shine, yo ass is mine.”
i looked in Arties eyes. they were intensive, like someone giving a sermon, or commanding respect. out of such respect, i shut my lip and gave him stage.
his pupils were like black clouds undulating into themselves: “you were on a great big ship-boat, day by night, locked up tight. you towed the line, you stood up, right. one day at the harbor, white clouds hung from the sun that was winking, told you walk on out. you tried, you walked on down the line. but a white man followed ten steps behind. you made it clean, but the man dragged you back inside, he said, ‘i own you. you are mine.’ he sang it, ‘shine shine shine, yo’ ass is mine.’”
i grabbed a pen quick, transcribed.
and even as i shoved the paper into my pocket, i thot it was just some more cool gibberish. as if he also wanted to read a poem aloud but had no real poem to recite. that is until i was stoned at home one night and came across it. in the state of mind i was in—open wide, it occurred to me Arties ‘poem’ could refer to a slave ship.
in fact, had the poem been submitted to me by a stranger, by someone i did not know was only semi-literate, of questionable mind, this was precisely how it would read.
i put Arties poem in an anthology next to an artists pencil drawing of an aerial view of a slave ship. Artie may not comprehend it, but he is a published author and artist. at least he has appeared in a hand of the books ive made so other people can read other peoples minds.