‘Noir, NJ’ by Paul Muldoon

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When I wake up in a strange bed
Beside a girl called Pam
I try to play the whole thing down
And give my name as Sam
It’s clear I’m way out of my depth
It’s clear that she’s dropped a dime
It’s clear that even I suspect
I’m guilty of some crime
I know those goons by the streetlamp
Are champing at the bit
I last saw them on board the train
Before we took a hit
And jumped the observation car
Only to lose our way
In a nightmarish railroad yard
Somewhere near Noir, NJ

When I squint through the slatted blinds
Pam orders juice and eggs
She’ll let a man do the legwork
While she works on her legs
It’s clear her husband was a wimp
It’s clear he had no spine
It’s clear she lit that cigarette
To give the goons a sign
I know that it’s a rule of thumb
A gumshoe’s fingered me
When ladies who’re high maintenance
Meet lighting that’s low key
They’re just so many femme fatales
Who have been led astray
And now lure plainclothesmen et al
Back there to Noir, NJ

When a sergeant with a scattergun
Meets a shamus
Halfway up the stairs
Somewhere between Paterson
And Paramus
They redefine the parameters
And bid us welcome, hey, hey, hey,
Welcome to Noir, NJ

When I flash forward through the murk
Of who did what to whom
I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve
To die here in this room
It’s clear I’ve been double-crossed
It’s clear that I’ve been framed
It’s clear that Pam’s husband was half deaf
From how they shout his name
I know I’ll be reduced to pulp
She’ll gulp with her orange juice
If I don’t reassert myself
She’ll kick in my caboose
It’s not too late to be hard-boiled
Like the eggs on Pam’s tray
Through even her pistol would recoil
At what happened in Noir, NJ

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Source: Muldoon, Paul. Joyce Carol Oates, Editor. New Jersey Noir. Consortium Book Sales & Dist, 2011. Print. pp. 217-218.

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