States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'Kings among men' by Miranda Lello

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.
Henry Hill, Goodfellas

I am in a Martin Scorsese film – except I’m not
In 1972 I was in a bar with my gangster friends
having my gangster laughs and we were
Kings among men – ‘You’re a funny guy!
I shouted we shouted guns sleeping restlessly
in pockets on belts in the top drawer by the bed

But then little Marty, who maybe watched
through the windows in Little Italy as a boy
watched as he walked past cafes butcher shops
taxi stands delis where the men in suits gathered
smoking and smelling of meat and money
walking to the dark cinema where he learned to
dream dark dreams, watched us as we were
Kings among men, Marty grew up and
Dreamed us all again onto strips of celluloid

And me I’m forgotten. Forgotten the men
who played in marching bands on Saints days
women who wore their best flowered dresses
in the shops holding the hands of screaming children
eyes drooping mouths hard carrying bags of shopping up
dirty apartment staircases longing for a house
in the suburbs and a man with a nine to five job

You think you see think you know us because
you saw a dream on the screen that looks
somewhat like us – we are gone we who
were kings among men smelt of death
memories of the old country violence of the new
No one remembers us instead remember
Ray Liotta’s beautiful eyes Robert DeNiro dancing
Hervey Keitel kneeling smeared with movie blood

We thought we were building a kingdom but
what we built is effaced – the kings that came after us
wielded the dream the representation and our
fierce words our guns our blood and gold were
no match for little Marty and his celluloid dream

Miranda Lello

Miranda Lello

Miranda Lello

Miranda Lello is a Canberra poet and performer whose début poetry collection, A Song, The World To Come, was published in March 2017 by Recent Work Press. It took thirty-five years to write, and Miranda launched it on her birthday under a tree outside the National Film and Sound Archive, one of the places she loves most in Canberra. Miranda has performed regularly around Canberra over the past twelve years, including at The Salt Room, Canberra Slambouree, BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!, and at Smith’s Alternative. In 2011 she was a finalist in the National Poetry Slam. She has been a featured performer at the Noted Festival and has had multiple poems shortlisted for the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize. She has had poems published in Axon: Creative Explorations, fourW, and the now long-gone Canberra journals Block and Burley.