Michael Shepler

Rookie (1942 / Cincinnati, Ohio)

The Same Dead Gangster - Poem by Michael Shepler

'How do I know this isn't the same dead gangster with the same brown Fedora? '
-Editor refusing to purchase a Weegee photograph

The same streetlamp glances down,
Bleary as an empty star.
Not what's visible, but the vacancies.
This is what chills us at last.
Sight leaking slowly out of the eyes toward the
Outer dark.
The young baker stands forever,
In white apron; his dough-covered hands
Slack at his sides, like luminous gloves.
He wants to turn away,
Moving back into the warmth
Of the bakery's open door,
But this photograph has fixed him
Forever to this single image.
We can see by the way the body's twisted
That the man is dead.
His overcoat covers him like a blanket.
His left arm is extended, & on
The third thick finger of his hand-
A gold ring with profile of a small
Diamond-eyed dragon.
His brown fedora has rolled some distance,
But it's still in the shot.

& though we can't see her,
The same woman, in polka-dot apron,
Waits in the same kitchen in Jersey City.
It is always half-past 9. Past dinner
& the kid's bedtime. Before the 10 o'clock
News & the war in Europe.
The radio's on. Stokowski conducting.
As he always does, always will.
She's anxious. Unconsciously twisting her ring.
Wringing her hands, still soapy from the dishes,
Like wet gloves.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, August 4, 2006

Poem Edited: Saturday, August 21, 2010

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