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Public Enemy

–for P-22, caught and killed by the authorities

He’d slinked out of a pre-Code film,
red tooth, red claw, a handsome brute
for whom you knew you shouldn’t root,
knowing what lay in store for him,
knowing that he could never stop
the low growl of his appetites—
he’d follow them into the heights.
It’s always lonely at the top,
with one way down. The running time
is scrawled in ink on every reel.
The genre’s laws are ironclad.
Tell me, how can you help but feel
a kinship with a mangy cad
whose mere survival is a crime?

Boris Dralyuk is the author of "My Hollywood and Other Poems" (2022) and translator of volumes by Isaac Babel, Andrey Kurkov, Leo Tolstoy, and other authors.

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