Bonnie Parker Poetry – Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde were legendary outlaws that robbed banks, killed people and terrorized part of the country during the Great Depression. Police officials and the FBI viewed Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker as dangerous criminals, but much of the public admired the couple and viewed them as modern-day Robin Hoods. Their legend and warm perception with the public was in part aided by Bonnie Parker’s poems: “The Story of Suicide Sal,” and “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.”
Parker showed an interest and talent for writing at a young age. She won prizes at school for both spelling and writing and she continued to write after she dropped out of school. In fact, Bonnie wrote poems throughout her time with Clyde Barrow and other gang members. She even submitted several poems to local newspapers.
Two of Bonnie’s most famous poems were written near the beginning of the Barrow Gang’s crime spree in 1932 and near the end in 1934. She came up with the words for these moving poems while in jail and while she and Clyde were on the run from authorities.
Bonnie’s first poem to be published was called “The Story of Suicide Sal.” Parker wrote the poem in 1932 on various scraps of paper while she was being held in the Kaufman jail. The poem was published in newspapers around the country after it was found during the raid on Bonnie and Clyde’s hideout in Joplin, Missouri, on April 13, 1933.
The Story of Suicide Sal
We each of us have a good “alibi”
For being down here in the “joint;”
But few of them really are justified
If you get right down to the point.
You’ve heard of a woman’s glory
Being spent on a “downright cur,”
Still you can’t always judge the story
As true, being told by her.
As long as I’ve stayed on this “island,”
And heard “confidence tales” from each “gal,”
Only one seemed interesting and truthful —
The story of “Suicide Sal.”
Now “Sal” was a gal of rare beauty,
Though her features were coarse and tough;
She never once faltered from duty
To play on the “up and up.”
“Sal” told me this take on the evening
Before she was turned out “free,”
And I’ll do my best to relate it
Just as she told it to me:
I was born on a ranch in Wyoming;
Not treated like Helen of Troy;
I was taught that “rods are rulers”
And “ranked” as a greasy cowboy.
Then I left my old home for the city
To play in its mad dizzy whirl,
Not knowing how little pity
It holds for a country girl.
There I fell for “the line” of a “henchman,”
A “professional killer” from “Chi;”
I couldn’t help loving him madly;
For him even now I would die.
One year we were desperately happy;
Our “ill gotten gains” we spent free;
I was taught the ways of the “underworld;”
Jack was just like a “god” to me.
I got on the “F.B.A.” payroll
To get the “inside lay” of the “job;”
The bank was “turning big money!”
It looked like a “cinch” for the “mob.”
Eighty grand without even a “rumble”-
Jack was the last with the “loot” in the door,
When the”teller” dead-aimed a revolver
From where they forced him to the floor.
I knew I had only a moment –
He would surely get Jack as he ran;
So I “staged a “”big fade out” beside him
And knocked the forty-five out of his hand.
They “rapped me down big” at the station,
And informed me that I’d get the blame
For the “dramatic stunt” pulled on the “teller”
Looked to them too much like a “game.”
The “police” called it a “frame-up,”
Said it was an “inside job,”
But I steadily denied any knowledge
Or dealings with “underworld mobs,”
The “gang” hired a couple of lawyers,
The best “fixers” in any man’s town,
But it takes more than lawyers and money
When Uncle Sam starts “shaking you down.”
I was charged as a “scion of gangland”
And tried for my wages of sin;
The “dirty dozen” found me guilty –
From five to fifty years in the pen.
I took the “rap” like good people,
And never one “squawk” did I make.
Jack “dropped himself” on the promise
That we make a “sensational break.”
Well, to shorten a sad lengthy story,
Five years have gone over my head
Without even so much as a letter –
At first I thought he was dead.
But not long ago I discovered
From a gal in the joint named Lyle,
That Jack and he “moll” had “got over”
And were living in true “gangster style.”
If he had returned to me sometime,
Though he hadn’t a cent to give,
I’d forget all this hell that he’s caused me,
And love him as long as I live.
But there’s no chance of his ever coming,
For he and his moll have no fears
But that I will die in prison,
Or “flatten” this fifty years.
Tomorrow I’ll be on the “outside”
And I’ll “drop myself” on it today:
I’ll “bump ’em” if they give me the “hotsquat”
On this island out here in the bay …
The iron doors swung wide next morning
For a gruesome woman of waste,
Who at last had a chance to “fix it.”
Murder showed in her cynical face.
Not long ago I read in the paper
That a gal on the East Side got “hot,”
And when the smoke finally retreated,
Two of gangdom were found “on the spot.”
It related the colorful story
Of a “jilted gangster gal.”
Two days later, a “sub-gun” ended
The story of “Suicide Sal.
– Bonnie Parker (ca 1932)
Bonnie’s second poem to go public, “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” is reported to have been given by Bonnie to her mother just weeks before the couple was gunned down.
The Story of Bonnie and Clyde
You’ve read the story of Jesse James
Of how he lived and died;
If you’re still in need
Of something to read,
Here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang,
I’m sure you all have read
How they rob and steal
And those who squeal
Are usually found dying or dead.
There’s lots of untruths to these write-ups;
They’re not so ruthless as that;
Their nature is raw;
They hate all the law
The stool pigeons, spotters, and rats.
They call them cold-blooded killers;
They say they are heartless and mean;
But I say this with pride,
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.
But the laws fooled around,
Kept taking him down
And locking him up in a cell,
Till he said to me,
“I’ll never be free,
So I’ll meet a few of them in hell.”
The road was so dimly lighted;
There were no highway signs to guide;
But they made up their minds
If all roads were blind,
They wouldn’t give up till they died.
The road gets dimmer and dimmer;
Sometimes you can hardly see;
But it’s fight, man to man,
And do all you can,
For they know they can never be free.
From heart-break some people have suffered;
From weariness some people have died;
But take it all in all,
Our troubles are small
Till we get like Bonnie and Clyde.
If a policeman is killed in Dallas,
And they have no clue or guide;
If they can’t find a fiend,
They just wipe their slate clean
And hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.
There’s two crimes committed in America
Not accredited to the Barrow mob;
They had no hand
In the kidnap demand,
Nor the Kansas City depot job.
A newsboy once said to his buddy;
“I wish old Clyde would get jumped;
In these awful hard times
We’d make a few dimes
If five or six cops would get bumped.”
The police haven’t got the report yet,
But Clyde called me up today;
He said, “Don’t start any fights
We aren’t working nights
We’re joining the NRA.”
From Irving to West Dallas viaduct
Is known as the Great Divide,
Where the women are kin,
And the men are men,
And they won’t “stool” on Bonnie and Clyde.
If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat,
About the third night
They’re invited to fight
By a sub-gun’s rat-tat-tat.
They don’t think they’re too tough or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They’ve been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.
Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side;
To few it’ll be grief
To the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
— Bonnie Parker (ca 1934)
A huge bounty was placed on the Barrow Gang and Bonnie and Clyde were eventually cornered by a group of lawmen on a quiet dirt road in Louisiana. The couple was gunned down as they drove down the road, their bodies strewn with dozens of bullets. Their bank robbery and killing spree had gone on for the better part of two years, from 1932 to 1934, but as Bonnie mentioned in her poetry, it was only a matter of time before they were to meet their end.
Bonnie Parker was only 24 years old when she met her fate on May 23, 1934.
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