When, that summer, the humid nights
drove him to smoke on the fire escape
and once or twice sleep on the grate
waking with the impressions on his skin
at the sound of god’s basest creatures
scurrying in the alley below his body,
he often spied the bicyclists,
a dozen late-night riders led
by a baritone-voiced tour guide.
“THIS IS WHERE IT HAPPENED.”
The guide would pass his arm across the air
indicating the very spot
where Bugs Moran’s men were shot,
and then offer his favorite line:
referring to the Tommy gun:
“THE CHICAGO TYPEWRITER!”
he’d say, then go rat-a-tat-tat,
tell them to snap their photos fast
they’re running late. “IT’S NEARLY ONE.”
The tourists would take their pics,
snap and dial to the next frame,
another snap, snap again.
Why, he wondered, would anyone want
a picture of an alley, however historic?
Perhaps, he wonders today, I’m in one
of those photos; buried in an album
along with birthdays and old friends,
he pictures himself on the fire escape
in the background, smiling, smoking,
twenty years younger, tired, sweating,
with no idea what all was coming.