Ask those Black Sox
those ballplayers if Arnold Rothstein’s lips smacked of milk sweat
drunk on devil’s food when the fix was in.
Luciano in the upstairs lavatory, hamming it up in the abattoir,
turncoat henchmen boil down the bathtub in a hiss of lye
while Lucky sits
as if poolside by poppy plants.
Employment opportunities from Five Points to Red Hook.
Ask those Bowery Boys. Otherwise
just hard jobs, hardly jobs
so instead boy-gangsters,
Irish boys, Jewish and Italian boys
pocket garish green apples from side-street fruit stands,
hooligans parade of produce shivering garland across
Across the alleys
string bridges stretched from tenement windows
better suited to dribbling laundry’s lukewarm gruel
than snapping suicides back at cataracts,
soggy parchment in the sky.
As years pass, once lawful little quakes,
now these boys wait atop apartment stoops
like mugging cake figurines on deck,
hoping to shove pinstripe sleeves up Tommy Guns —
Chicago Organ Grinders — Machine Guns
draining numbers of men into sums of zero
behind five and dimes and mint green soda parlors,
portioning fathers into moist corpse cake
delivered to the Missus whole carcass, but sometimes
just choice cuts.
Published in Penn Review Volume 46, Issue 2