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Phone Call from a Slave Ship


Phone Call from a Slave Ship

Rupert File


Why worry over frail Josie not knowing where I am

When I don’t even know where I am, but

Judging through steel mesh, we’re headed downtown

Me and Major, just met, cuffed-up.

“Got DAMN,” Major goes, knee-pounding the DAMN,

my left hand helping his right, having to.

Me with problems too – frail Josie not knowing

Where I am one. Last night another –

Josie breathing, “I love you.”

“Me too,” somebody mean went.

“Can’t you say it?”

“IT. How’s that. It, it, it,” me so slick.


Now in this place, pocket-emptied,

Crack-searched, plastic-glove patted, shoe-shook

Nothing mean or slick left.


In the bench soon we get our call –

Mostly whines to bosses, lawyers.

Everybody listening, nobody guilty.

Mine though finds a soft voice across town – Josie’s.

IT gets whispered, her going, “what?”

I cup the phone. The benches lean forward.

Still it’s “what?”

“I love you, Josie” comes hollered and

“Whooo – lover-boy” go the benches, thigh slapping

drowning frail Josie’s reply.

Slump-sitting I try to dissolve, to not be lover-boy

Close-eyed, I hear us in the hold,

Some moaning, some singing,

Me scurvy-heartsick already

Still smelling land.


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