Noir Poet – Kenneth Fearing: “appeals urged across kitchen tables and the fury that shouts them down”

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)


She sleeps, lips round, see how at rest
how dark the hair, unstrung with all the world
see the desirable eyes, how still, how white, sealed
to all faces, locked against ruin, favor, and every

Nothing behind them now but a pale mirage
through which the night-time ragman of the street
below moves in a stiff and slow ballet
rhythmic from door to door, hallway to curb and
gutter to stoop, bat’s eyes bright, ravenous,
ravenous for the carrion found and brought by
tireless fingers to unreal lips

Her hand relaxed beside the enchanted head, mouth red,
see how at peace the human form can be, whose
sister, whose sweetheart, daughter of whom,
and now the adorable ears, coral and pink
deaf to every footfall, every voice
midnight threats, the rancor stifled in rented bed-
rooms, appeals urged across kitchen tables and
the fury that shouts them down, gunfire,
screams, the sound of pursuit
all of these less than the thunderous wings of a moth
that circles here in the room where she sleeps

Sleeps, dreaming that she sleeps and dreams.


-From ‘Dead Reckoning’, A Book of Poetry by Kenneth Fearing (Random House, NY, 1938)



One thought on “Noir Poet – Kenneth Fearing: “appeals urged across kitchen tables and the fury that shouts them down””

  1. This poem is brilliant, though not at all surprising when your consider Fearing is considered the greatest depression era American poet. I know his fame also rests on some novel, especially “The Big Clock,” a mystery that is known for it’s psychological suspense. It is asserted that some of his pulp fiction borders on soft-core pornography and he’s a radical leftist who once responded to a government query as to whether he was a communist. His answer: “Not yet.” Anyway this descriptive, atmospheric gem is a persuasive call to look at more of his work!


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