Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Celebration of Crime Poetry

April is Poetry month and nobody does crime poetry better than The Five-Two, Gerald So's crime poetry blog that runs a new poem about crime from a different author every single week. In honor of poetry month and the 5-2, I've selected three of my favorite crime poems from the site to share with you. Each poem features a reading by the author. Enjoy! 


In the morning news:

A was convicted of murdering her third husband B forty years ago.
At the time, A didn't have much invested in B.
They'd only been married three months.
A shot B in the back of the head, because she thought B
was about to assault her two-year-old daughter C, a child
from her second marriage.
Police believe B had come off a night shift and wanted to sleep
and may just have been trying to quiet C who was crying.
A bundled B's body and carted it to a place where she
and her second husband, D, the father of C, worked as caretakers.
Shortly afterward, A married her fourth husband E,
who apparently was unaware of what had happened to B.
The pair, A and E, lived quietly for decades,
until the police discovered that E had murdered his ex-wife F
and his two sons G and H after he'd married A.
E explained that F was harassing him about his marriage to A
and E didn't know any other way to make F stop.
Now in their mid-seventies, A and E have confessed.
They have been sentenced to life without parole.

Whereabouts of second husband D and daughter C are unknown.

Nancy confesses: "A version of these events was published online at the Huffington Post as a true crime story. In this poem I attempted to diagram what I had read in the article because I was having trouble making sense of the logistics of what happened and when."

NANCY SCOTT is managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets' Cooperative in New Jersey. She is the author of seven books of poetry. The eighth, The Lanky Fisherman or Why the Winter Wind Howls over Mersey Lake (a chapbook of retold fairy tales) is forthcoming from Aldrich Press in late 2014. She is also an artist. Her poetry and artwork can be found at www.nancyscott.net.


At home there is no noise or light;
I rarely welcome company;
no strangers' eyes shine warm and bright.

Here counters sparkle slick and white
in all their clean facilities.
(At home there is no noise or light.)

The smell of fries implies delight.
I can't afford them, just a tea,
where strangers' eyes shine warm and bright.

I've never tried to spend the night—
just share some quiet reverie.
(At home there is no noise or light.)

Please grant me this small human right,
some modicum of dignity,
where strangers' eyes shine warm and bright.

Why scare old pigeons into flight?
Why withhold human sympathy
where strangers' eyes shine warm and bright?

(At home there is no noise or light.)

Catherine confesses: "This poem was inspired by the January 14, 2014 New York Timesstory of Man Hyung Lee, 77, who was forced by police to leave his usual booth at a McDonald's in Flushing, Queens."

CATHERINE WALD is an author and poet with an unimpressive criminal record. Her chapbook, Distant, burned-out stars was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011.


To meet its burden the state must prove
mens rea (culpable mind). It matters
what's in -- and not in -- the killer’s head.

Take negligent homicide.
Stu ought not have been texting
that time his rider mower trespassed
into the kids' birthday party next door,
but no one was more shocked
at what happened than Stu.

Reckless indifference to human life
(manslaughter) is more blameworthy still.
After robbing the convenience store,
Hugh meant no harm driving full-speed
at those pedestrians in the crosswalk
blocking his getaway. Most of them
made it to safety.

Then there is intent to kill, the worst,
when you think about the death
of your victim and plan it.
Like that time long ago when you thought
about hoisting your ex-girlfriend in your arms
and racing head-first towards the wall?

That was no plan, you insist,
just a shameful fantasy in the depths
of humiliation and jealousy
and loneliness and despair.
Hell, you couldn't even lift her.
And besides, if no bad act is committed
then it's no harm no foul no crime.
That dear impossible woman still lives,
I am -- I mean, you are -- able to say.

Roger confesses: "I have not committed a violent felony since I was a boy. 'You Didn't Mean to Kill Anyone' takes its tone from Alfred Hitchcock’s weekly introductions to his old TV series, which long ago found a home in my guilty poet's mind."

ROGER NETZER has practiced law for more than thirty years. His poems have appeared in The Potomac, Chiron, and Green Hills Literary Lantern.

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