The prompt line from NaPoWriMo for Day Nine is:
And now our (totally optional) prompt. I’m a sucker for a good mystery novel, especially the hard-boiled noir novels of the thirties and forties. There’s always a two-timing blonde, a city that keeps its secrets, and stuck in the middle, a man who just can’t help but rabbit after truth. Today I challenge you write a poem inspired by noir — it could be in the voice of a detective, or unravel a mystery, or just describe the long shadows of the skyscrapers in the ever-swirling smog. After all, “you know how to write a poem, don’t you, Steve? You just pick up a pen and you write.”
Black and white image, public domain
I look up, see her bleached halo first
as she pushes open the tavern door.
Sunlight caresses silhouetted curves.
She minces on spiked heels
to the empty bar.
Ol’ Sammy polishes bar glasses,
gives her a lazy glance, keeps rubbing.
She leans forward and I imagine her cleavage.
Ol’ Sammy jerks his thumb in my direction.
I watch those hips roll toward my eyeballs.
Yeah, babe. What can I do ya’ for?
My motto: never be too eager.
I toss down another Jim Beam,
Finger my last quarter on the table.
Then look right up into her baby blues.
Mr. Colavita? Her voice is full of dandelions
and hummingbird wings.
I smell danger,
check my shoulder holster.
A job is a job.
She slides into the worn naugahyde booth
across from me, uninvited.
Buttons on her silk blouse
yearn for freedom.
I’m in trouble. Big trouble.
What is it, kid?
She’s all class and cheap perfume.
I don’t get it. I frown.
I didn’t do it, honest.
Her voice catches
like she’s gonna cry.
Cripes, I hate it when a dame cries.
I went to that gypsy fortune teller
down there on Holly and Commercial.
Her voice warbles like a nightingale.
She pulled these cards with daggers
but I didn’t kill him. Please.
Ya’ gotta help me.
I feel my heels sink through holes
In my socks.
Gonna cost ya, Babe.
I nod to Ol’ Sammy and wait,
watching her. Clomp slide,
Clomp slide, Sammy works
his way to our booth,
sets down two teaming shot glasses.
I got money, Mr. Colavita. Please.
Blondie snaps open her beaded black purse.
See? I got a deposit here.
She leans out of the booth,
nervous like, and checks the front door.
I think I’m being followed.
She’s a dish worth following
but murder’s another story.
I’m two months behind in rent
and no gas in my car.
Maybe this babe can save my cake.
She slides a white envelope across
the table. I’m no eager beaver here,
so I take my time, pick up the shot,
let the pale window light
shine through before I shoot it down.
I nod to her to do the same
and take the envelope, easy now,
tear the end and run my thumb
along the seal. Please.
She’s batting the baby blues again.
I’m no fuddy duddy but I gotta be careful.
Three big ones. No five.
Five hundred buckeroos.
I do a little arithmetic, rent, gas,
a few meals and whatever the dame
needs. I frown.
I can get ya more. Here. This is just a retainer.
Her fingernails are poppy red.
She flicks out ten more notes,
more dough than I’ve seen this year.
I lift an eyebrow.
I count the moola slow like, slide it in my inside pocket.
Ah, thanks, Mr. C. I knew you’d help me.
She smiles. Red pouty lips
reveal a slight overbite.
Gonna be a good summer after all.