Howard Firkin
A genre piece for Brody who knows it only comes the hard way
Here peal no bells—that’s wallpaper.
      I’m lonely. What’s your news?
I’m just another witless dick
      who never found the clues.

An unsigned letter in the mail.
      Who sent it? What’s your guess?
Get busy tracing my hunch back
      to one more slum address.

I follow shadows through the streets,
      observed by sodden cats,
and rain-streaked faces stare out flat
      as filthy welcome mats.

Engels lives corrupted here:
      "Theft is possession, son."
And murder’s close to charity,
      that’s why it’s never done.

You hear no sparrows singing—that’s
      the warbling of a drain—
and everyone’s both crim and screw,
      on every door a chain,

on every knocker, cobwebs like
      the tatts on every arm.
Not many raps get beaten here.
      I’m eyed with some alarm.

"I’ve got no news—the cops have been—
      I don’t know nothin’!"
a wallet opens anything
      she’s got that she can shut.

Her eyes slide round their sockets
      like the lies out of her throat.
She sings—the pitch is perfect for
      a fifty dollar note.

"I don’t buy it—I want the truth…"
      She curdles into scorn.
"Too bad you weren’t here yesterday—
      the day I wasn’t born!"

I turn and make my exit to
      the usual applause:
the spittle of the dirty rain,
      the slamming of the doors.

Here peal no bells—just wallpaper.
      I’m lonely—so, what’s new?
I’m just another witless dick.
      I never had a clue.