Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Ravi Shankar

SAND NIGGER BLUES

SAND NIGGER BLUES

SAND NIGGER BLUES

Say I’m just a plainclothes Indian,
not from a tribe but from a high caste,
just driving home past Chelsea on 34th,
trying to find the West Side Highway.
Windows down, thrumming cross-town,
when I see the rearview flashing lights.
 
Sober as a compass, headed up north,
no mullah or drug mule yet still I’m brown.
Got the Sand Nigger Blues.
 
“Just a glass of wine with dinner, Officer,
and yes I own this car. See my name’s
on the registration. No, I’m not coming
from that far. I live in Connecticut
and was just headed home. Employed?
Yes I teach for a living. I’m a professor.
A poetry professor. No I don’t have
a firearm or any outstanding warrants.” 
 
Sober as a compass, headed up north,
no mullah or drug mule yet still I’m brown.
Got the Sand Nigger Blues.
 
From the rear of a barred van the city
passes by in streaks. Cuffed in a human
chain, rights unread, and oxford laces
pulled from my shoes. I’m the lightest
one of three dozen or more, all huddled
together tonight on this concrete floor. 
 
Sober as a compass, headed up north,
no mullah or drug mule yet still I’m brown.
Got the Sand Nigger Blues. 
Close

SAND NIGGER BLUES

Say I’m just a plainclothes Indian,
not from a tribe but from a high caste,
just driving home past Chelsea on 34th,
trying to find the West Side Highway.
Windows down, thrumming cross-town,
when I see the rearview flashing lights.
 
Sober as a compass, headed up north,
no mullah or drug mule yet still I’m brown.
Got the Sand Nigger Blues.
 
“Just a glass of wine with dinner, Officer,
and yes I own this car. See my name’s
on the registration. No, I’m not coming
from that far. I live in Connecticut
and was just headed home. Employed?
Yes I teach for a living. I’m a professor.
A poetry professor. No I don’t have
a firearm or any outstanding warrants.” 
 
Sober as a compass, headed up north,
no mullah or drug mule yet still I’m brown.
Got the Sand Nigger Blues.
 
From the rear of a barred van the city
passes by in streaks. Cuffed in a human
chain, rights unread, and oxford laces
pulled from my shoes. I’m the lightest
one of three dozen or more, all huddled
together tonight on this concrete floor. 
 
Sober as a compass, headed up north,
no mullah or drug mule yet still I’m brown.
Got the Sand Nigger Blues. 

SAND NIGGER BLUES

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère