to John Garfield
by Nicholas Christopher
The heat’s on, dead wind shoots up
9th Avenue, a white T-shirt flutters
On the convertible’s antenna
Outside Billy’s Pool Parlour.
New York’s last tough guy
Walks down 44th Street, bums a smoke
And shows a good left
While feinting punches.
He crosses town, watches
East River tugs link the bridges
With foam in afternoon glare;
Whatever died in the last war
Left Brooklyn harbor, maybe
Is still out at sea.
After Hollywood, the big money,
Blacklisted out of pictures
When he won’t give names;
His voice a hoarseness,
Health gone to hell,
Caught up in gin and rumpled raincoats,
He lives in West Side hotels
With ex-society girls,
B-actresses and three old bankbooks.
He drinks for nine months straight,
Stirs endless ice cubes
In the narrow bars off Broadway,
Blacks out regularly at 4 a. m. ,
Dies at 39 in hotel sheets,
Journalists delighted to report
An English girl, under-aged
And on junk, in bed
With him at the time.
Uptown in a Bronx trainyard Three kids grown past stickball
Play blackjack under an overpass,
Blow dope and belt cough medicine
Over a low fire—the one
In the black sweater loses,
Can’t pay up, leans back
And watches rain come down
On a southbound express.