Friday, July 22, 2011

Dillinger, Alias Jimmy Lawrence

June 22, 1903 - July 22, 1934

He walked out into a night
delirious with moonshine,
the woman’s perfume suddenly lifting
from his arms – all sure signs of death.
What seemed like a good idea
rewound his brief life’s history.

This time he had no wooden gun for escape,
no forceps to flip his tongue,
to bring him back from the dead
like a gangster Lazarus.
Only Anna Sage knew who he was. He told her
his Depression-day Robin Hood stories,
but she preferred Indiana to Rumania.

Not until the moment he left the Biograph theatre,
right after Melvin Pelvis lit a cigar,
called out his real name,
did a kind of alley loneliness
rise like a red skirt of darkness
then exit his right eye for good.

“Dillinger...” was originally published in The Illinois Review.


  1. Glen,

    The legend in my family was that when my father was young--22--he was a tag-along for a reporter for the Denní hlasatel, the Czech newspaper. He went with the reporter to the morgue after Dillinger was shot and viewed the body. It has also been reported that my dad resembled Dillinger. Creepy but true.

    -Marge Sucansky

  2. From Mary Richie:

    Nice poem. Many years later Al Capone's young driver lived in the town in which I taught and tried to live a "quiet life". His little charming granddaughter was in my class. One early spring day my friend who was teaching another class of the same grade had all her students take paper and pencil out on the playground to take notes of an early spring before a poetry lesson after lunch. My poor student thought they were spies taking notes about her and her family and dissolved in such convulsive crying that I sent for her mother to take her home for the afternoon.

    I hope Jimmy Lawrence didn't leave behind any offspring.