You were an old school tough guy
and I wanted to be an actor,
with my Bronx accent and tight jeans.
I was a crowd extra on the De Laurentiis remake,
your death scene shot on location
but downtown this time, at the new Twin Towers.
I got on the train at Buhre Avenue, no seats,
everyone coming back from Orchard Beach,
the car smelling of Coppertone and sweat.
Cut to mamacita and little boy:
her long brown thighs, bikini top slipping,
tan lines like Day-Glo under black light,
black & blue peeking behind her Ray-Bans,
the kid obviously Sharks and Jets like me,
but with dirty blond locks and his mama’s complexion.
Sitting tight against her, tiny sandaled feet
dangling over the seat, a toy
T-Rex drawn in each hand,
he dead-eyed me like a gunslinger.
We rode the el downtown, the sky clear
except for black columns rising a mile high
over The Bronx burning for the insurance,
burning just for the fun of it.
In your day it teemed with hope
when everybody was poor and nobody knew it,
and now they all knew it and so it burned.
But what did you care about the past?
Prehistoric, post-historic jungle Godfather,
they threw virgins at you in fear and trembling.
At 149th, a squad of Skulls got on,
Savage Skulls, flying colors, fearless.
I switched to an express.
Even in this city of bad mothers,
you feared no man dead or alive.
So when I got off at Chambers and followed
the crowd to the scene of the crime
I knew it was going to be bad.
I shoved and sidled my way up close,
found you laid out at the foot of Tower One,
resurrected full-scale in Styrofoam and fur,
your mouth agape, those big canines still threatening,
the Towers like a couple of Jezies giving last rites.
I swear to God your eyes shined like they had tears.
You didn’t want to die like this. You were sorry for it all.
Maybe a hundred feet away, just past the barriers,
your lady stood alone, her pretty gown torn,
the breeze trying to take off what was left of it.
A key-grip came from behind the camera rig,
draped her bare shoulders in a white kimono
covered with soaring cranes.
Cops on horseback rode in; the party was over,
nothing left but the long march uptown like refugees
from the smoking ruins of the Emerald City
and you were the Wizard of Oz.
You should never have stepped out of the jungle.
What you never understood was that your innocence
not your crimes made you a monster.
You really believed love gave you the right
but your love was a catastrophe
for such small creatures. Your mere touch
dismembered them. In the end, right or wrong,
you had to be put down.
By the time we crossed Canal dusk had fallen,
the Towers lit up in the setting sun
like pillars of fire right out of DeMille
leading the Jews to the Promised Land.
A quarter century later I saw them burn for real
and lead us nowhere.
By then I had already been wandering for years,
a refugee from the swath of destruction
cut by monsters I still loved.
– Eugene A. Melino