Ask Frenchie about Rootin' Rudy,
the potbellied pig allowed to sleep in the biker's bed many nights,
before he shot and stomped a man to death,
and Frenchie will dig out the photos
of his black porcine pal
kissing him, proper as a beldam.
His eyes will twinkle.
Or Mustache Jerry, so taciturn,
who murdered a man outside a bar
and needs no invitation to share with you
a story about Boots, who'd pull a dead
truck as well as he could hump
a plow along a rut
but was stubborn as the day is long.
Evenings, Jerry brought apples in a basket
and they'd watch the sun descend on
the hills while the man liquored up
and the mule chowed down.
Or broad-as-a-barn James, with
his murderous leer and short fuse,
easily slighted and, on the prison yard, best steered
clear of: he had a cat, an enormous tabby — Tut —
that believed itself a dog. They went
for walks together, and James would feed Tut
flank steak when he grilled, out back.
The cat was his friend, and James
wept babylike when he died after
a fight (a coyote, the culprit), but not
after sticking four holes in Earl McCann,
The fucker, he had it comin'.
Hard men. Hard men all,
* * * * *
Does a poem need a disclaimer? Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental ought to cover it, if so. But you do hear some stories from questionable individuals (nearly the only kind, in prison) if you do enough time, and the three I cannibalized for "The Animals the Animals Loved" remain largely intact, right down to the incriminating facts.