Two Poems
Kevin Young

   
   

 

Film Noir (The Set-Up)

Snake oil sales
were slow. So I hung

out my shingle on
a shadow.

Desk drawer liquor

A dead man's loan. Soon
chinless stoolies

slunk & doorjambed—
ratted

that she ain't no
good, that she wears a watch

on both wrists. Too
many midnights.

Evidence mounting like butterflies

Still I made them informants
for phonies, phoned

to hear her breath.
She was faith

enough to believe.
She's a peach. A pistol.

I waived my fee

I left my agency

Came home to rooms ran-
sacked, tossed

by invisible hands.
Hip flask. Blackjacked.

Swig,
mickey slip, slug.

I woke doubled & cross

Dragged, ferried
through whiskey alleys

Bruisers, suicide doors

The crooked chief interrogated
me about her body

She's no more mine, no eye
witness, nor alibi

No one will attest she ever
did exist.

I was her fall guy

By the wharf was left
waterlogged & wise

My dogs dead
tired, I humped it

home, humming gumshoe blues.

 

Film Noir(The Chase)

I didn't have a rat's chance.
Soon as she walked in in

That skin others
violins began. You could half hear

The typewriters jabber
as she jawed on: fee, find, me,

poor, please.
Shadows & smiles, she was.

Strong scent of before-rain
Her pinstripe two-lane

legs, her blackmail menthol.

She had all the negatives

Hidden safe
& would not reveal the place.

Before you could say
denouement, I was on her case—

Slant hat, broad
Back, my entrenched coat

Of fog. Fleabags,
Neon blinds undrawn—

The foreshadows fell on her face.

All night I tailed, staked
the joint. Found

Her with the butler
playing patty-cake

Baker's man. She nursed
him like beer

Till dawn. Doozy.
Was from her woozy,

My eyes wet.
Binocular mist.

I took two to the chest

Was all
rain, her blurring face

Her snuffed, stubbed out
lipstuck cigarette.