It’s All One Thing #16: Bill Barnum in Prison in Tennessee

A few cents in pocket
hitchhiking, Washington D.C. to New York City
Bill ends up in Tennessee in a cell with a forger
who practices his trade as abstract art
wrote the signatures upside down
and refused to hide his craft
better than a psychologist
because he discovered by way of intelligence
the reason that you get high from marijuana
is because you hold the smoke in unlike cigarettes you puff
he had to be smart to get away with what he did
so he protected Bill
but Bill’s folks went to parties with Al Capone
and had to duck from rival bootlegger’s bullets.

Al Capone had soup kitchens all across the country
and treated women with the greatest courtesy and respect.
He looked more like a poet than a gangster.
That’s how life is. It’s not a straight line.
It’s not for good or bad people.
It’s a mixture of what happens to everyone.

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.

 

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