Noir Poets: William P. McGivern

New York, 1957

Earl Slater – the white man:

Earl limped about pointlessly examining the junk on top of the mantel, studying the sturdy old beams and floor boards, pausing once to frown at the broken radio on the table. I’ll never see any of this again, he thought. Never see this room again in my life. Why should that bother him? he wondered. It was a cold, stinking dump. No man in his right mind would want to see it again. But leaving it reminded him of the other places he had left. He stood fingering the glass, while a dizzying succession of rooms and barracks and Army camps flashed through his mind. He was always the guy who had to leave, he thought. Everybody else stayed put, cozy and snug, while he hit the road. He never went back anywhere. There was no place on earth that called out to him, no stick or stone or blade of grass that belonged to him and nobody else.

Was it because he was dumb? Because he couldn’t feel what other people felt? The confident peace he had known after talking with Ingram had deserted him; he was uncertain again, worried and tense, afraid of the shadows in his mind.

Talking with Ingram he had licked this feeling. Or thought he had. Everybody was alone. Not just him, everybody. But what the hell did that mean? How did knowing that help you? he wondered.

Johnny Ingram – the black man:

A state trooper in a blue drill uniform was staring curiously at Ingram’s tear-filled eyes. “What have you got to cry about?” he said. “You’re not hurt.”

“Never mind,” a voice cut in quietly. Ingram recognized the voice of the big sheriff in Crossroads. “Let him alone.” The authority in the sheriff’s voice was unmistakable, but so was the understanding; the trooper turned away with a shrug, and Ingram wept in peace.

Later he was taken outside on a stretcher. The rain had stopped but a sprinkling of water from the trees mingled with the blood and tears on his face. Far above him he saw a single star shining in the sky. Everything was dark but the star, he thought. In his mind there was a darkness made up of pain and fear and loneliness, but through it all the memory of Earl blazed with a brilliant radiance. Without one you couldn’t have the other, he realized slowly. Without the darkness there wouldn’t be any stars. It was worth it then. Whatever it cost, it was worth it. . . .

Noir Poets: Ira Wolfert

All the things a man has to go through to get to live here, thought Leo, the things, the things, thousands and millions and millions of dirty things to hurt people and hurt himself.  The street seemed drowned in stone. It looked narrow and drowned, a thing emptied of life and walled with swollen, stone bones. The feeling of costly desolation was heavy in Leo. This costly desolation was splendor, but Leo did not think of it as splendid. Yet he tried to be faithful to the rich. He tried to think of the costly desolation as good for sleep. Only the rich could afford to buy quiet like this in the heart of the city, he told himself. He felt suddenly that only a man who had made himself rich could become barren enough to want and be comfortable in this desolation.

–  Ira Wolfert, ‘Tucker’s People’ (aka ‘The Underworld’), NY, 1943, p. 71

Abraham Polonsky’s and Ira Wolfert’s screenplay for Force of Evil (1948) was based on Wolfert’s novel.

Noir Poets: Lou Reed

Dirty Boulevard

Pedro lives out of the Wilshire Hotel
he looks out a window without glass
The walls are made of cardboard, newspapers on his feet
his father beats him ’cause he’s too tired to beg

He’s got 9 brothers and sisters
they’re brought up on their knees
it’s hard to run when a coat hanger beats you on the thighs
Pedro dreams of being older and killing the old man
but that’s a slim chance he’s going to the boulevard

He’s going to end up, on the dirty boulevard
he’s going out, to the dirty boulevard
He’s going down, to the dirty boulevard

This room cost 2,000 dollars a month
you can believe it man it’s true
somewhere a landlord’s laughing till he wets his pants
No one here dreams of being a doctor
or a lawyer or anything
they dream of dealing on the dirty boulevard

Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I’ll piss on ’em
that’s what the Statue of Bigotry says
Your poor huddled masses, let’s club ’em to death
and get it over with and just dump ’em on the boulevard

Get to end up, on the dirty boulevard
going out, to the dirty boulevard
He’s going down, on the dirty boulevard
going out

Outside it’s a bright night
there’s an opera at Lincoln Center
movie stars arrive by limousine
The klieg lights shoot up over the skyline of Manhattan
but the lights are out on the Mean Streets

A small kid stands by the Lincoln Tunnel
he’s selling plastic roses for a buck
The traffic’s backed up to 39th street
the TV whores are calling the cops out for a suck

And back at the Wilshire, Pedro sits there dreaming
he’s found a book on magic in a garbage can
He looks at the pictures and stares at the cracked ceiling
“At the count of 3” he says,
“I hope I can disappear”

And fly fly away, from this dirty boulevard
I want to fly, from dirty boulevard
I want to fly, from dirty boulevard
I want to fly-fly-fly-fly, from dirty boulevard…

– Lou Reed  | LP Album ‘New York’ (1989)

Noir Poets: Philip Marlowe

Who am I cutting my throat for this time? A blonde with sexy eyes and too many door keys? A girl from Manhattan, Kansas? I don’t know. All I know is that something isn’t what it seems and the old tired but always reliable hunch tells me that if the hand is played the way it is dealt the wrong person is going to lose the pot. Is that any of my business? Well, what is my business? Do I know? Did I ever know? Let’s not go into that. You’re not human tonight, Marlowe. Maybe I never was or ever will be. Maybe I’m an ectoplasm with a private license. Maybe we all get like this in the cold half-lit world where always the wrong thing happens and never the right.

Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister (NY 1941)

Noir Poets: Tupac Shakur

March 1997 Amin and Bunlay (Grade 7/8) Bonaventure Meadows Public School London, Ontario
March 1997 Amin and Bunlay (Grade 7/8) Bonaventure Meadows Public School London, Ontario, Canada

California Love (1995)

Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreamin
Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearin hoochies screamin
Fiendin for money and alcohol
the life of a west side playa where cowards die and its all ball
Only in Cali where we riot not rally to live and die
In L.A. we wearin Chucks not Ballies (that’s right)
Dressed in Locs and khaki suits and ride is what we do
Flossin but have caution we collide with other crews
Famous cause we program worldwide
Let’em recognize from Long Beach to Rosecrans
Bumpin and grindin like a slow jam, it’s west side
So you know the row won’t bow down to no man
Say what you say
But give me that bomb beat from Dre
Let me serenade the streets of L.A.
From Oakland to Sacktown
The Bay Area and back down
Cali is where they put they mack down
Give me love!

Noir Poets: The Judas Cradle

When I Was Little I Used to Write Letters to God

I’ll die with this pen in my hand if I have to
I will not call out your name one more time
Destroy everything and set fire to every lie has ever been told to you
So lets dance tonight and leave this world to burn
It only takes five fingers to make a fist
I will not pray for dreams to come true or spend more days on my knees in search of you
This is my life and I take back everything I have ever asked for
I’ll burn myself clean
You were never right and I was never wrong
I have no time for heroes and no space for saviors

–  The Judas Cradle (2004)

Noir Poets: Lyle Lovett

Promises (1996)

Promises given
And promises broken
Words stain my lips
Just like blood on my hands

And words are like poison
That sinks down inside you
And some things you do
You just don’t understand

I offer no reason
I ask for no pity
I make no excuse
For the way that I am

And words are like poison
That sinks down inside you
And some things you do
You just don’t understand

If God is my witness
Then God is my savior
But if you are my judge
Then I’m already damned

And words are like poison
That sinks down inside you
And some things you do
You just don’t understand

And would if my fingers
To cut off and give you
Could gain my redemption
I’d cut off my hands

But words are like poison
That bends you and blinds you
And some things you do
You just don’t understand

So this is my story
And I hope that it finds you
For your sweet attention
I cannot demand

And words are like poison
That lives down inside you
And some things you do
You just don’t understand