The Thief & The Thief

Night and day are like two table racquets
smacking Gerhardt back and forth,
and every contact with the blue or black paddle
ages him visibly.

At 19 Fantucci had already knocked over six banks,
and his getaway techniques had ushered in a rash
of decoys and river escapes.

By 27, Georgescu, the art thieves’ Einstein,
had swiped the Quran written in Saddam Hussein’s blood,
and inspired a generation of thirsty young criminals
to perfect the art of disguise.

At 30, Gerhardt, a self-educated expert
in forgery artists and vault explorers,
will be the first to tell you
and the other bar patrons
that he’s no genius,
but maybe if he spends enough time
designing and honing one plan,
then perhaps he could commit
one genius crime,
something everybody would notice,
and yes, in fact, he is architecting a master plan,
something deviously intricate and yet ingeniously simple,
though he needs a foolproof escape, since there are
certain seasoned detectives
who would recognize his unmistakable style
when the crime made international news.

And no, he hasn’t so much as jaywalked in years—
Gerhardt is saving himself.

Now Gerhardt’s 35.

Now
Gerhardt’s 40,
but he still has fire
and he stays alone
because women make him weak.
If it weren’t for women
he’d have long since…
Gerhardt lifts weights daily
and is still handsome enough to be
a famous criminal, he thinks,
though a little less every month.
Across from a diner mirror,
lost in the many images of himself,
he tries to talk his way out of the maze.
But should he shave his balding head?

Gerhardt doesn’t know.

Gerhardt wanders in loose circles
pacing ruts into sidewalks
as if around the next corner
he’ll glimpse the steel idea,
the indie style he needs
for the felony to be remembered.
Surrounded by giants in the mist,
he is too proud to stand on their shoulders;
he must be original, he wants
an authentic, homemade crime,
brilliant and eccentric, a sly blow
against the received wisdom.

Perhaps something with
the Vatican?

What if…

At 50, to top off an already legendary career,
Waszak had conned a sultan
out of an entire oil-state.

At 50, Gerhardt’s everything he sneered at.
He keeps throwing away his promise
then spends years trying to get it back
only to find himself in the same old place
saying something he said before
to people who used to listen closer.
He prays at the sites of former successes
remembering when he had tears in his eyes;
now he can’t find the feelings he pushed away,
and night and day are alternating mountains.
When he was a child, no one had said anything
about the repetition,
and being doomed to act,
how inaction is action,
and the long fall is interrupted only
by a repeating series of
collisions.

55, 60, 65…
The years fold like dominos,
and Gerhardt’s an echo,
afraid of his friends,
worn by his clothes,
owned by his possessions
and bored with his obsessions.
Gerhardt performs as himself in bars,
desperately unable to stop plagiarizing
his younger self. Buy him enough whiskey,
and Gerhardt will joke that he’s still plotting
his big breakthrough, but only so he doesn’t need
to release his favorite delusions,
as if by wishing hard enough
it could all still come true…
Yeah sure, he laughs,
and the mice will eat the cat,
the snow will paint, the clouds will bark,
right, and the money melt, and the launched fist
encounter itself, the whale swim over the city,
and Atlantis turn up
in an old bathtub.

At 76, T.T. “Manta Ray” Barnoy broke
into the world’s largest stash of gold bars
only to take a selfie—a true transcendence
of petty crime, into skill for its own sake,
risking it all for a display of technical splendor,
signing eternity with a golden pen,
and had they met
as peers
the two old men would have gotten on
famously.

But Gerhardt doesn’t care. He’s
engrossed in another, bigger battle
he also must lose, but this time
he cracks wise. These days
sleep wakes him,
emptiness fills him,
and the silence speaks
most eloquently.

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