Poem: Choir Day

It still hangs in his closet,
His trench coat, his badge of office.
Dust settles on its shoulders
Its colour fading into sepia
A patch covering an elbow,
Also faded. A small line of thread
Zigzagging under
The right sleeve,
Matching the scar on his right side,
His puckered skin fading.

Occasionally he feels the knife
Twisting on cold days
Sliding in and out on old days
He grins and grimaces in turn
It’s going to storm soon
Old Man Brown levers himself
Standing and unfolding
Stiff with rust

A cold wind stirs a plastic bag
Clouds smother the sky
Making the trees seem closer to
Heaven. The traffic rumbles
Constantly, throwing out
An occasional siren
Their exhaust lies
Like a tainted patina on
A rusty copper city.

But it’s not enough to mask
The singing coming from
Within the retirement home.
Old Man Brown grimaces.
Thursday is choir day.
A good reason to
Stay outside.


Poem: The Track

A small trace of a trail
Bent leaves
Odd twigs in odd positions
Little hollows

Bird song
Filling the spaces
Between branches
Puching sunlight
Inton specific angles

A tiny zephyr
Playing absently
With leaves
Twirling them on their
Stalks, as it
Lazily tours the trees

The fragrant mulching
Tickling the spores
Awar from the ground
Into the smaller cracks
Of old trunks

The bush releasing
Life into the ground
Birth into the air
Memory into the track
Silence; a sentinel,
A witness.

Serial Poem: Poem Noir Conclusion

Part XII

T.C. Brown presses his ear against the door.
A wind whips leaves over the grass,
the trees rustle in determination,
T.C. curses the weather,
the curse is absorbed by the wind.

Behind the door, he hears soprano,
a cackle (of course),
he hears her voice,
he hears baritone,
he hears distress
he hears threat,
he hears a denial,
a roar, a shriek,
the breaking of a vase.
The wind roars by his ear.
He hears despair, pleading,
disbelief, the shatter of glass,
the scraping of a chair.
The wind bangs his eardrum.

He turns, slowly, the handle.
He hears her footsteps,
the heavy pounding of a heavy man,
the door is locked.
He hears the sting of a slap,
the wind stinging his face,
and he remembers the darkness of the cellar.
He hears a cackle, a gasp, a stern command.
He hears two gun shots.
The wind exploding through the trees.
T.C. explodes through the door.

It is the calm after the storm.
On the floor,
two men,
pools of blood grow from their bodies.
Client is sobbing,
gun in hand, shaking.
There is glass on the floor.
Her face is bruised,
tears slowly falling.
T.C. holds her.

“They threatened me.
They accused me.
They had a knife.”
“Calm down, it’s all over.”

“They stole my diamond.
My husband told them to.
An exchange for money.”
“I know.”

“But someone killed their courier.
They said it was you,
and you had the money,
and you had the diamond.
They came here to frighten me,
They thought with you gone,
it would be easy.”

T.C. holds her and rocks her.
He smells her perfume
and feels her calm body.
He looks at the gun,
and recognises it –
the same as his.
T.C. Brown pulls away.

Client looks at him –
T.C. Brown looks at her –
And he hates them.

“You did it,”
he says,
“You shot them.”
“I had to.”
“Not the hoods,”
says T.C.,
“Your husband,
your sister,
you shot them.”

“How can you sat that?
After all the love,
the nights we shared –”
“All lies!” says T.C. Brown.
“But I helped you.
I held you,
I loved you.”
“All lies!” says T.C. Brown.
“What makes you say I did it?”
“The painted nails on the case,
your sister didn’t have painted nails.
Two visas to Paris,
why wasn’t he taking you?
The diamond robbery, you said nothing of it.
But you knew of the exchange,
someone told you, maybe your husband,
maybe your sister, but you knew.
The courier was shot, your sister was shot,
a gun similar to mine,
the police told me that.
The gun in your hand
is similar to mine.
You shot the courier, you shot your sister.
You have the diamond, you have the money.”

Client’s face hardens
her grimace turns downward,
the tears stop falling.
She raises the gun towards him.
“You’re right.
I did it.”
He backs away,
turns to face the open doorway, outside.
Client backs to doorway and traps him.
“We used to love each other once,
my husband and I,
but people change.
He wouldn’t give up without a fight.
I wanted it all,
the diamond,
the money,

“I told my sister,
we hatched a plan.
She would be his lover,
convince him to have the diamond stolen,
claim all the insurance,
then leave the country.
And he fell for it.”
T.C. Brown remembers the card,
“With Love,
From Mary.”
Yes, he fell for her,
in a bad way.
“She was to kill him,
get the money,
and we would leave the country.”
“But you wanted the diamond.”

“I wanted it all.
I arranged the meeting,
and claimed the diamond.
I shot the courier.”
“With a gun like mine.”
“With a gun like yours.”

“Down in the street,”
says T.C.,
“Why’d you shoot your sister.”
“I wanted it all.”
“But she was your sister.”
“She was my half-sister,
no love was lost.”
“Not even on me.”
“Not even on you.”

“I hired you,
to frame you.
I noted your gun
and bought it.
The police would suspect you.
The police would accuse you.
The law would convict you.
I would go free.
But you were released.
I had to watch you,
I had to control you,
in case you found out.
T.C. Brown grimaces,
he curses himself for
falling for her.
He mourns the loss of her lips,
the feel of her flesh.
And he hates the fact that
now he hates her.

“Goodbye Trenchcoat Brown,
you were a good P.I.,
you were good in bed,
but you weren’t good enough.”

Close up eyes –
Close up gun –
trigger squeezing.
Close up smoke
curling from the barrel.
Close up face –
rude awakening of everlasting sleep.
Close up withered rose –
petal falling gracefully.
Close up outstretched arm
opening hand, releasing
a gun.
Close up shoes.

Pull back to reveal black trousers.
Pull back to reveal black jacket.
Pull back to reveal Angles,
gun smoking,
Client on floor,
pool of blood,
growing from her body.
“I heard it all,” says Angles,
a grim look on his face,
“I hate hearing confessions,”
he says.
“I know,” says T.C.,
“So do I.”
T.C. Brown hides his feelings
from Angles,
from himself.
“A gun like yours,”
says Angles.
“A gun like mine,”
says T.C. Brown,
“One difference,
I had a full barrel.
Never trust a loaded gun.”


Grey lamppost.
On the other side,
hidden from light,
brown trenchcoat,
T.C. Brown –
watching shadows
play in windows.

T.C. Brown remembers Client,
falling for her,
holding her,
hating her.
Never again, he swears.
He remembers her sister,
her cold hand holding the invisible knife.
He remembers the hoods;
Soprano’s laugh, Baritone’s slap.
He regrets nothing.
He remembers the kitchen.
He regrets nothing!

Maybe he should get back with Ace.
He remembers her pain,
and the light,
now absent from her eyes.
Now his memory becomes all shadows.

T.C. Brown watches the building.
Curtains down,
the show is on.
This time he sees the shadows
join and dance around the window.
This time he sees the knife.

March 91, copyright Simon Lenthen

Serial Poem: Poem Noir Part XI

Typewriters beat out in staccato
the events of the world.
Office boys rush from desk to desk with copy,
reporters buzz on telephones,
photographers hang impatiently in doorways,
secretaries guard the offices of editors.

T.C. Brown moves amongst the activity.
Some people greet him,
others not his presence,
the rest ignore him.
A photographer smiles and winks,
T.C. winks but doesn’t smile.
A secretary steals glances,
he pretends not to notice.
He walks up to a desk and sits down.
The woman behind the desk pecks at letters
on an old grey typewriter.
“Get me a cup of coffee,” she says.
“Get me a cup,” he replies.
She doesn’t look up.
“Get lost, Trenchcoat,” she says.
“I need a favour.”
“I told you to scram.”
Tap, tap-tap.
“What do you know?” he asks.
She looks up at him.
Her eyes have lost the light that he remembers.
“You’re sleeping with her.”

He says nothing.
She looks back at her typewriter
and pecks.
T.C. knows better than to stay.
He gets up and ignores the office.
He thinks of her, what they shared.
T.C. shrugs,
everybody has a past.

“Keep away from Ace,”
a voice says behind him.
T.C. turns,
it’s her editor.
“She works better alone,” he adds.
“I need a favour.” T.C. says.
“Ask me.”
T.C. shows the date,
the editor turns to an office boy,
“Get me this edition.”
The boy is gone.

T.C. Brown stares out the window of Editor’s office.
The street is lined with cars.
The path is bobbing with people.
The sky is overcast, Trenchcoat is too.
He hates the mistake of coming here.
He curses his falling for Client.
T.C. Brown usually keeps his distance from his customers.
Editor opens a filing cabinet and pulls out a bottle.
He offers a glass to T.C.
“You’re working for Client,” Editor says,
“You know who killed her husband?”
T.C. shrugs, “No.” he lies.
“You know who killed her sister?”
T.C. shrugs, “No.” he lies.
“You know who killed the other man?”
“What other man?”
Editor sizes him up for a moment.

“All this,” he says,
“isn’t over a diamond?”
T.C. looks up.
Editor is smiling,
for a moment he looks like Angles.
“What do you know about diamonds?”
“Read for yourself,” says Editor.
The office boy brings in a paper.
T.C. Brown sees the headlines –
Editor is smug.
“Stolen, never found.
Big insurance pay-out.”

T.C. Brown sees things fall into place.
One had the money,
the other had the diamond.
Who ever killed them got both.
But who killed them?
Baritone and Soprano?
He remembers their words –
“We don’t trust you.”

T.C. springs from the office.
They would be tailing him.
He was with her.
They stole from her,
they’d think that she would know something.
She was in trouble.

Editor follows him out,
“What’s the rush?
I need a story.”
“You’ll have your story.
There might be another murder!”

concluded next week

Serial Poem: Poem Noir Part X

Moonlight streaming through bedroom window.
Client’s chest rises and falls.
Sheer black teddy drifts on her body,
a silent reminder of what passed between them.
T.C. Brown is amazed at how she can sleep,
when his mind races with questions.
Sleep is for the innocent.

He slips from the covers of the bed.
She stirs –
he holds his breath –
she settles,
he quietly makes his way
downstairs to the office.

The black oak desk
absorbs the light from the desk lamp.
The flowing ebony of wood
is a portrait of a calm ocean.
There is nothing on top that disturbs the wash
so T.C. decides to go fishing.

He pulls out drawers,
sifts through paper.
He finds insurance policy,
he sifts more.
He finds a bank account,
a large deposit, a small withdrawal.
T.C. sifts and finds a receipt,
two visas to Paris, France.
One for the dead man,
one for the dead woman.
T.C. remembers her hand.

“Looking for something?”
Client draped on the doorway,
grey gown, black teddy,
pale skin, dark lips.
She invites T.C. into her arms
and smothers his questions with her kisses.

Morning sunlight on bright kitchen tiles.
T.C. smiles as Client fries –
bacon on the griller,
eggs in the pan, and the gas is cooking.
He doesn’t see the sunlight focus through the window.
He doesn’t see the sunlight sparkle on the black car,
or the men inside it.
Client smiles as she serves him breakfast.
They eat their meal in silence.
Watching each other’s eyes.
Feeling each other’s heartbeat.
Glowing in the sunlight that shines in their memory.

T.C. Brown feels tamed,
washing dishes,
wiping white Formica benches.
For a time
he forgets the guns,
the shadows,
the darkness behind lampposts.
He adopts the sink,
the stove,
the fridge and freezer.
He explores this world,
as he would explore any world.
He explores closed cupboards,
revealing food and detergent.
He explores the rubbish bin,
discovering eggshells and bacon rinds.
He explores the dumbwaiter,
finding dust and cobwebs.
He explores the pile of papers
by the screen door.

He finds headlines from the past.
Bold print screaming
photos capture faces in dismay.
T.C. Brown is shocked into recognition.
He curses the comfort of the kitchen.
reads the headline.
The article is missing.
The questions and suspicions return
to replace the new world.
He notes the paper and the date,
then returns it to its place.

T.C. Brown welcomes himself back to the lamppost.

Serial Poem: Poem Noir Part IX

One floor up, two doors down.
T.C. Brown listens to the door,
he hears muffled voices,
someone searching;
breaking the stillness of the corridor;
frantic, restless crashes,
then silence.

The door slowly opens.
T.C. presses himself on the wall,
pulls his gun,
A head peers out.
A look up the corridor,
a look down,
eyes focus on the barrel of a gun.

T.C. pushes the head inside.
Baritone chuckles,
a gun at T.C.’s head.
Soprano smiles.
“Smooth move, Trenchcoat,
but not smooth enough.”
Baritone chuckles.
“You won’t find it here.”
Soprano smiles.
Teeth flash in sunlight.
Gun flashes down onto T.C. Brown.
Fade out.

Fade in.
Musty smell of cellar.
Ropes rubbing on wrists.
Blindfolded darkness
that pierces the back of the mind
with light.
The sound of feet walking up and down.
T.C. Brown is reminded of the lamppost.
All shadows and sounds.
Nothing is definite that cannot be seen.
“Our man is awake,”
says Soprano.
Baritone breathes into T.C.’s ear.
“We have questions.”
“So do I,” says T.C.
The sharp sting of a slap on his face.
“You’re not in a position to ask.”
says Baritone.
“Who killed the courier.”

T.C. swallows.
“I can’t tell you,
I don’t know.”
Another sting.
“Your man was killed in the apartment.
The courier I saw was killed in the street.
You want the diamond and the money.
I saw the money in the flicker of a lighter
The exchange was for the diamond.
I don’t know who had what,
but your man did.”
T.C. smiles.

Another sting,
but he doesn’t care.
Soprano sounds edgy.
“He ain’t telling us something.
Let me rough it out.
He knows something.
Let me beat it out.”
Baritone breathes into T.C.’s ear,
“I don’t know how long I can control him,
tell me something I want to know.”

“Who ever killed your courier,
also killed my client’s sister.”
“We don’t care,” says Soprano.
“Shut up!” yells Baritone.
“But Boss –“
“I say who cares,
I call the shots.”
“Who’s your client?”
Baritone breathes into T.C.’s ear.
He hears the click of a gun.
“You need me,”
T.C. says,
“I find your diamond.
I find your money.”
“We don’t trust you.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
Another sting.
“This isn’t the time for insults.
Not with a loaded gun at your head.”

“Give me a day,”
T.C. says.
“We don’t trust you.”
“You have no choice.”
T.C Brown feels the butt of a gun
and wakes up in his office.

Serial Poem: Poem Noir Part VIII

T.C. Brown hates rain.
He lets it fall on him
as he makes his way
past people going places.
The constant wet hiss of tyres on wet tar
and the callings of cars compete
with the pounding of the water in the gutter.
He escapes from the noise and weather
into a low murmur of a dark café.

The café is darker than the morgue.
The aroma of coffee curls into his nose.
He watches the steam rise in eddies
and disappear into the air.
He sips his coffee.
He considers Mary
dead at the lamppost.
What did she have?
What did she take from her lover –
apart from his life?
What did she trade it for –
apart from her life?

T.C. considers the courier.
What did he have?
Who took it from him?
And then he remembers
Baritone’s orders.
“Find the diamond,
Find the money,
Find the killer
Or we’ll kill you.”
Are the three killings connected?
He hopes so,
he hates working on two cases at once.
T.C. Brown hates not knowing the connection –
if there is a connection.

Angles makes himself known.
His smile is a Cheshire cat,
all secrets and no solutions.
“Enjoying your last few days of freedom?”
he asks.
T.C. Brown says nothing,
keeps his anger in check,
sips his coffee.
“We’re watching you.
We got evidence
that suggests that it was your gun.”
T.C. Brown finds it hard to control his patience.
“You’re our man, Trenchcoat,
you’re the killer,
you’ll be wearing stripes soon.”
T.C. stands quickly.
“Wear this!” he says
as he pours his coffee
onto Angle’s lap.

The rain is a welcome relief to the heat of the police.