St. Agnes' Eve

By Kenneth Fearing 1902–1961 Kenneth Fearing
The dramatis personae include a fly-specked Monday evening,
   A cigar store with stagnant windows,
   Two crooked streets,
   Six policemen and Louie Glatz.
Bass drums mumble and mutter an ominous portent
   As Louie Glatz holds up the cigar store and backs out with
$14.92.
Officer Dolan noticed something suspicious, it is supposed,
   And ordered him to halt,
   But dangerous, handsome, cross-eye'd Louie the rat
Spoke with his gat,
   Rat-a-tat-tat—
   Rat-a-tat-tat
   And Dolan was buried as quickly as possible.
But Louie didn't give a good god damn,
   He ran like a crazy shadow on a shadowy street
   With five policemen off that beat
   Hot on his trail, going Blam! Blam!-blam!
While rat-a-tat-tat
   Rat-a-tat-tat
   Said Louie's gat,
So loud that Peter Wendotti rolled away from his wife,
   Got out of bed to scratch his stomach and shiver on the cold floor
   Listening to the stammering syllables of instant death
   Met on secret floors in the big vacant galleries of night.
Then Louie sagged and fell and ran.
   With seven bullets through his caved-in skull and those feeble brains
   Spilling out like soup.
   He crawled behind a water-hydrant and stood them off another half minute.
"I'm not shot," he yelled, "I'm not shot," he screamed, "it isn't me they've shot in the head," he laughed, "Oh
I don't give a damn!"
   And rat-a-tat-tat
   Rat-a-tat-tat
   Muttered the gat
   Of Louie the rat,
   While the officers of the law went Blam! Blam!-blam!
Soft music. Violins moan like weeds swaying far under water.
   The vibrant throats of steam-ships hoot a sad defiance at distance and nothing.
   Space curls its arm across the flat roofs and dreary streets.
   Bricks bulge and sag.
Louie's soul arose through his mouth in the form of a derby hat
   That danced with cigarette butts and burned matches and specks of dust
   Where Louie sprawled.
   Close-up of Dolan's widow. Of Louie's mother.
   Picture of the fly-specked Monday evening and fade out slow.

Kenneth Fearing, "St. Agnes’ Eve" from Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems. Published by The Library of America, 2004.   Reprinted by the permission of Russell & Volkening, Inc., as agents for the author. Copyright © 1994 by Jubal Fearing and Phoebe Fearing.

Source: Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems (The Library of America, 2004)

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Poet Kenneth Fearing 1902–1961

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

Biography

Kenneth Fearing, a well-known proletarian poet of the 1930s, a pulp-magazine writer with several pseudonyms, and a Chicago and New York publicity and editorial writer, turned to writing “psycho-thrillers” in the 1940s and 1950s. His fourth novel The Big Clock (1946) achieved much popularity and was released as a film by Paramount in 1947. Although some scholars now consider Fearing’s main contribution to be in the genre of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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