When Ben was 18 months old, we walked down to Pine Grove Park from our house on Lincoln Street in Port Huron. There was a play scape there, that had a pretend pilot house and ship's wheel. Ben was just learning to love climbing and the slide. And he had just discovered the ship's wheel.
I helped him climb up, and there was a three or four year old white kid up there already. He looked at Ben, and he said, "No black kids can be pirates here!"
Ben laughed and clapped his hands. I went to the three year old's father, and told him what his kid had said. He glared at me for the longest ten seconds of my life. Then he brushed past me and yelled, "Jason! C'mon, we're going home." The kid ran to him like he knew what might happen if he didn't, and off they walked, across the green grass to the street.
At the time, I was posting a lot of poems on the site Poetry.com. One of my favorite reviewers was Dean Walker, a twenty-somthing coffee salesperson from Sebastapol, California. I wrote him about the incident, and he wrote this, for Ben.
Home Grown Pirates
Boxed in and filled with sand
like an ocean
the towering creosote soaked pilings
take the form of an old shipwreck,
with riggings and planks,
and a captain's wheel.
Paid by the commons
for the children to enjoy.
"Aye scalawags all aboard,"
shouts a portly pint size scoundrel.
And hence heed the call
and came skipping
from his yard none other than
two year old Suleiman.
"Holt boy!There are no black pirates!"
says the patch-eyed little thug,
within ear shot of his parents,
keeping the world of thievery
squarely in the domain of whitie.