If You Only Knew
"Why this house," Bradford Henry Ford, aka Model B, aka Better Id, aka B Henry, says to me. "Why this house?"
And I point to a magazine and say, "Read that dog-eared page."
B Henry looks, says, "Is this a poem?"
I cannot lie, 'cause on paper it looks like a poem, all jagged edged and shit. "Yep, poem."
"I look like an English major?" B Henry asks, "I look like I'm matriculating?" But he looks down and he reads, I can tell, his eyes and lips moving.
So this poem, called something like "If You Only Knew How Easy It Is to Break into My House" is about how the poet writing the poem has a house that is totally unguarded, and the upshot is why waste your time on banks or old lady purses or kids lunch money or some other scheme when there's this house, this poet's house with all this quality stuff inside and nothing to stop you. If you were in ninth grade English class, slouched in your chair, confusing a display of boredom with an invisibility cloak, and the teacher, say Mrs. Gardner, called on you and you had to summarize the poem in two words? Those two words would be"Easy pickings."
B Henry says, "You think it's a trap?"
"Like an elaborate police poetry sting?" I actually considered that same thing when I first read it, you know, how law enforcement uses like glue cars and dropped wallets and fencing fronts. And later on, at the trial, they play the video like it's a blooper reel on "America's Most Successful Criminal, Not." A poem, though, never heard of them using a poem. I point out all this, plus that the magazine The Lineup, Issue 4, containing the poem was published months ago. I end with how ineffective of a sting method it would be, "How many people read poetry? If you were one of those people who read poetry, what are the odds that you read that poem? And of those numbers, how many people who read poetry and do read that particular poem, have the skills to pull off a robbery?"
"Just two," B Henry says. "Me and you."
So we spend some time on the internet, and more time on Google Earth, and then some time surfing for and then looking at free porn while waiting until late dark. When it's dark enough and late enough, we head out, walking to the subway, on our way to the defenseless house with the unguarded treasures. But first we have to stop off at one of those food wagons for some cheap Mexican food because, B Henry says, "Porn makes me..."
"Horny," I say.
"Hungry," he says, as if the crossword clue "Porn makes me" has a couple of extra spaces.
Getting to Long Island, where the poet's house is, from the Bronx, where we are, is not that hard, even this late at night. Well, not hard in terms of taking this train to that train to this train and then you're there. The hard part is the choice of company this time of night. Passenger-wise everybody is pretty much like us. You got your stocking caps, black leather coat guys, and there's your stocking cap under hoodie, under black leather coat guys, and for a change-up your hoodie under dark-colored varsity coat guys. Some guys have do rags and black NY Yankees sport caps. Everyone has black pants or jeans, black boots or athletic shoes and dark gloves peeking out of side pockets. Some variety in height or weight and shades of skin color when you can see skin but you'd be hard pressed to pick any one out of the Lineup and that's the point, the Lineup. You can have all the video in the world but a mook shadowed in a hood and a hat is hard to finger.
Pointing at the poetry magazine in my jacket pocket, B Henry says, "Let me look at that again." 'Cause if you ride long enough you either make eye contact or read something. Making eye contact with this bunch of retro-bates is inviting a thousand yard staring contest wherein the winner gets first stab. Of course, reading something, if that something is our whole plan on how to get rich, exposing that plan in public, may not be the best idea either. So I hesitate. After he reaches his palm out in the universal sign of gimme, I say, "No."
"Come on," B Henry starts, "let me read that poem." Words which, in that combination, you'd get even money had never been uttered before.
"Ixnay the on oempay," I say, which even as I said it seemed exceedingly dumb.
"Don't worry," B Henry says, "no one is going to want to read a poem over my shoulder."
"You can't be sure."
"Hey," B Henry says, voice loud, "listen up you mooks." Did I mention that B Henry, twice the size of a normal human being, was the commanding muscle of our two man team?
Eyes moved, maybe a head or two, even the knit caps seemed coolly expectant.
"Anybody want to read a poem," he said.
More eyes moved. The knit caps seemed more expectant.
"You mean like," one guy said, "our own poems?"
Everyone, even me, looked at the guy.
"What?" B Henry says, clearly flabbergasted. "Hell no, I mean," pausing, he grabs the magazine from my pocket, holds it aloft, "these poems."
"Is it rap?" someone says.
Another guy starts to beat box. Couple of others are swinging their arms like they can't wait to step forth and drop some personal, reflective wisdom on the nature of Ho's and such.
"Nope, no rap."
The beat stops. The arms return to a position of menacing indifference.
"Is it like English class?"
"Exactly," B Henry says, "no rap, lit-tra-ture."
Everyone stares hard, a few click tongues, one or two drawn out "shits," and then everyone turns off, retreats back into their wardrobe shadows.
"See," B Henry says, and lips moving, starts reading, not just the poem, but other poems.
By the time we transfer, ride, transfer and ride some more, it's his second and third and fourth time through, eyes still moving but not lips. I tap his shoulder, say, "We have arrived." We stumble out, it's like three in the AM, witching hour according to every cheesy single camera point of view horror film made in the last ten years. Up to the street it feels like a horror film, all deserted, our breath ghostly visible and moon fighting clouds. Following directions we go down one street, up the next, and down another until, there, mid block, a real brick beauty. Just looking at the outside you know the value went in before the welcome mat was selected from a catalog along with stylish garden gnomes, received via UPS, and put out. No visible lights, one address, one mail slot, all adds up to one person living there which adds to a real haul.
"Just like in the poem," B Henry says.
Into the doorway, standard deadbolt and a secondary embedded lock, opens with my pick kit in like twenty-five seconds.
"Rusty," B Henry says, on my skill not the door, which opens as quietly as rats pissing on cotton.
The entryway opens into a hall, stairway steps up to the left, parlor to the right, all antique and glass and polished original wood. Oriental rugs and old, classy portrait paintings of folks long dead. We run through the first floor on cats feet, ticking off what will go and what will stay.
"We're gonna need a truck," B Henry says.
"Come on, jewelry must be upstairs."
"Dibs on any wall safe," B Henry says.
Walking up the stairs, lightly stepping, we're all quiet and quick. Under a door, soft light.
"Shit," B Henry says.
You always wonder what do you do, open, bypass, withdraw? So I'm immobile, thinking.
"Poem," B Henry says with quiet conviction, as in trust the poem. The poem says it's all cool and so far the poem has been true to its words, so yeah, I nod, say "Poem."
I put a hand on the door knob, start to turn, pushing slowly open, and, as we enter the doorway a voice says, "Who's there?"
And B Henry and I say, in unison, "Poem," like we can close our eyes and it will take us away.
"What's that, you read my poem?"
Yes, we both nod, yes of course we read your poem and poetry lovers that we are, we're here to discuss the merits of this poem with you. At least that's what my nod was meant to say. B Henry? Well, you'll have to ask him.
B Henry reaches into his side pocket, pulls out The Lineup, and turns to the poem, begins to read aloud.
The poet is tickled, and with closed eyes repeats the next line from memory.
We're gonna get through this, I think, without a significant amount of jail time.
And the poet is all gracious, has us sit, offers tea and short bread cookies and the combination to the wall safe not so secreted behind a Dali Quixote print. Every other wall safe is behind a Dali, usually the same "limited" original (like limited original has some real meaning) Quixote print. And the wall safe has some fine jewelry and some currency and some bearer bonds. The poet says, "I'm just happy knowing someone still reads poetry. Especially my poetry." So we talked about the poem and how the poem came to be and other poetry related things and on a non-poetry related matter, about the stinking Yankees stinking middle relief.
And we leave at dawn, two autographed copies of The Lineup, some chapbooks and our haul of treasure. On the subway, mixed among the commuters, whose faces are almost as hidden as those last night, noses burrowed into the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The NY Times and NY Post, and the women with their romantic vampire novels, and a hell of a lot of thick Jonathan Franzen's, B Henry says, "Anyone want to read a poem?" They all look away, so we, B Henry and me, we read a poem, and then another, and another...
Copyright © 2011 by John Stickney