This poem was derived from one written by my friend, Jim Standish.
Jim's poem is reprinted, by permission, at the bottom of this page.

The Standish Variations: on "Reflections" [jfs]

From True Stories Of The People's Republic Of Berzerkeley:

A black youth rides by
on a shiny ten-speed, hunched
under the weight of a second ten-speed
carried across his back, his head through
the frame, a third
ten-speed in tow trailing in his left hand.
Mr Natural hypothesizes

the bike may be stolen. Then asks
himself: how is it, to live
like that youth running a gauntlet
of indignant, white, middle-class outrage? Because

on his tail is a train
of middle-aged tourists
pointing and shouting to noone in particular,
distracted momentarily from
the shiny silver trinkets
being hawked on Telegraph Avenue
by predominantly white, middle-class rip-off artists pretending
to be starving artisans.

The black kid gets busted--this
is not a fable, there is no lasting moral here.

JDP (after j.f.s.) 97/09

Copyright John D Porter © 1997

And here is Jim's original poem:

Reflections Off a Shiny Ten-speed

A black youth rides by
on a shiny ten-speed, straight up
on the saddle, arms crossed, and
Mr Pine imagines for a moment
the bike is stolen. Then asks
himself: how is it, to live
like that youth in a gauntlet
of assumptions? Remembers

when he was a soldier, whistling tunes
from Beethoven as a sign to the world
and himself of intelligent life. That
was a terrible time. What if it started

before he could know who he was? What if
it was never going to end? What if
his rank was in his skin? Quick quick
he cuts off the thoughts.

An old Negro woman told him
one rainy night at a bus stop
in Washington DC, back when school
busses were for segregating, told him and

told him Jim Crow
was a worse crime than murder. Mr Pine
shivers, squeezes his eyes, kicks
a beer can over the curb.

© Jim Standish

First published 1980 by the Council for the Arts in Palo Alto, in
"Mr Pine: WPA number eighteen", out of print.

Subsequently published 1994 by the author in "Pine & Peterkin";
currently out of stock but if you want one contact Jim Standish,
1411 College Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306-1225 or .

[List of Poems]