4 Noir Poems by C. W. Blackwell @CW_Blackwell

Punk Noir Magazine

1.

Last Call

Somewhere the lid of a dumpster clams open,

a cataclysm of bottle glass and aluminum cans— 

we are ever-so briefly sober, my brother,

blinking into graffitied alleyways and 

chiaroscuro window sashes where cats sit 

glass-eyed and moon-riven, gargoylesque.

Dawn comes staggering over the cityscape

as we shoulder through piss-stained alcoves

and chain fences, past greasy crates 

and blankets twisted like reams of flesh

as streets thrum

with taxis 

and motorcycles 

and steel-jawed garbage trucks 

and jackhammers 

pounding 

at the stone heart 

of the city.

In twenty years, I’ll wake in middle-age to the sounds 

of children and kettle steam and learn that you 

were still lost in those old alleyways 

while Death’s Angel chased you— 

maybe you grew tired of

running, my brother,

how that grave-wise 

voice must have

soothed the fire in

your bones

when it

hollered

last call.

2.

Midnight Rapture

After the drugstore vodka and dive bar jukeboxes,

cigarette cherries drowned in votive wax,

after the razored lines of Percocet on gas station toilets,

through city streets bleeding orange in the lamplight,

you totter the trash-strewn levees where hustlers 

make midnight commerce on the San Lorenzo River.

Shadows gather like cutouts in a child’s diorama,

down among the stones and reeds 

and broken tents

and dolls heads

and dead birds

and eddies of daffodil foam

where every so often a corpse wheels by

on abscessed arms and catches in the wax myrtles.

A needle-like rain rushes up from the bay

and you shelter beneath the footbridge

(the corroded ironwork crumbling in sea fog)

where you exchange your last twenty for a handjob

and a few hits of crystal.

3.

Gas Station Noir

A Ford Galaxie transverses 

the pump canopy,

yellow with black hardtop—

maybe she thought it was a taxi?

The driver unfolds into the fogged-out night,

uncradles the pump and hooks the filler pipe 

where his face hangs 

v-shaped and sinister in the chrome

—never a truer likeness.

He pays with coins from a beaded change purse

that his corpulent fingers could not have fashioned;

initials woven in a glassy mosaic that are not his own.

They belong instead

to the cold weight in the trunk,

limbs bound in a bramble of chiffon.

Blueing lips; 

eyes like

gray crystals.

The Ford hooks left onto Mission,

submerges into an ocean of fog;

traffic lights signal to a dreaming city.

Yellow and black.

Yellow and black.

Maybe 

she 

thought 

it 

was 

a taxi.

4.

Late Check-Out

Next, the metronome of a motel faucet.

The smell of vinegar and butane, hot aluminum.

Dope haze specters the window as 

morning arrives, stillborn and cinder-gray.

Where will we go at check-out time?

The sound of bus hydraulics on the avenue;

paper trash tumbling in the empty lot like

broken-winged gulls. Noon comes—also gray.

The manager knocks twice and rocks the doorlatch.

Night falls, the phone rings forever in its cradle.

From the bathroom, I hear Emily exhale.

She’s a million miles from San Bernardino,

a million miles from her dead-eyed stepfather 

with his sweaty fingers and twelve-pack grin.

She lies in the motel tub with her arm tied off

and her lap full of drugstore cotton balls,

caught between the parentheses

of a sickle moon and the needle’s wet fang.

A slur of oaths and invective at the front door,

threats of a break-in. 

Pounding. 

Pounding.

Baby, it’s time to go.

C.W. Blackwell was born and raised in Northern California, where he still lives with his wife and two sons. He has been a gas station attendant, a rock musician, and a crime analyst. His passion is to blend poetic narratives and pulp dialogue to create evocative genre fiction. He writes mostly crime fiction and horror. His recent work has appeared in Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey, Switchblade Magazine, Rock and a Hard Place Magazine, EconoClash Review, Gutter Books, and All Due Respect.