The Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum

By Wallace Irwin

Copyright 1901

Published by Eldar and Shepard, San Francisco, 1902


WOULDN'T it jar you, wouldn't it make you sore
To see the poet, when the goods play out,
Crawl off of poor old Pegasus and tout
His skate to two-step sonnets off galore?
Then, when the plug, a dead one, can no more
Shake rag-time than a biscuit, right about
The poem-butcher turns with gleeful shout
And sends a batch of sonnets to the store.

The sonnet is a very easy mark,
A James P. Dandy as a carry-all
For brain-fag wrecks who want to keep it dark
Just why their crop of thinks is running small.
On the low down, dear Mame, my looty loo,
That's why I've cooked this batch of rhymes for you.


SAY, will she treat me white, or throw me down,
Give me the glassy glare, or welcome hand,
Shovel me dirt, or treat me on the grand,
Knife me, or make me think I own the town?
Will she be on the level, do me brown,
Or will she jolt me lightly on the sand,
Leaving poor Willie froze to beat the band,
Limp as your grandma's Mother Hubbard gown?

I do not know, nor do I give a whoop,
But this I know: if she is so inclined
She can come and play with me on our back stoop,
Even in office hours, I do not mind--
In fact I know I'm nice and good and ready
To get an option on her as my steady.


ON the dead level I am sore of heart,
For nifty Mame has frosted me complete,
Since ten o'clock, G.M., when on the street
I saw my lightning finish from the start.
O goo-goo eye, how glassy glazed thou art
To freeze my spinach solid when we meet,
And keep thy Willie on the anxious seat
Like a bum Dago on an apple cart!

Is it because my pants fit much too soon,
Or that my hand-me-down is out of style,
That thou dost turn me under when I spoon,
Nor hand me hothouse beauties with a smile?
If that's the case, next week I'll scorch the line
Clad in a shell I'll buy of Cohenstein.


AS follows is the make-up I shall buy,
Next week, when from the boss I pull my pay:--
A white and yellow zig-zag cutaway,
A sunset-colored vest and purple tie,
A shirt for vaudeville and something fly
In gunboat shoes and half-hose on the gay.
I'll get some green shoe-laces, by the way,
And a straw lid to set 'em stepping high.

Then shall I shine and be the great main squeeze,
The warm gazook, the only on the bunch,
The Oklahoma wonder, the whole cheese,
The baby with the Honolulu hunch--
That will bring Mame to time--I should say yes!
Ain't my dough good as Murphy's? Well, I guess!


O FATE, thou art a lobster, but not dead!
Silently dost thou grab, e'en as the cop
Nabs the poor hobo, sneaking from a shop
With some rich geezer's tile upon his head.
By thy fake propositions are we led
To get quite chesty, when it's biff! kerflop!!
We take a tumble and the cog-wheels stop,
Leaving the patient seeing stars in bed.

So was I swatted, for I could not draw
My last week's pay. I got the dinky dink.
No more I see the husk in dreams I saw,
And Mame is mine some more, I do not think.
I know my rival, and it makes me sore--
'Tis Murphy, night clerk in McCann's drug store.


LAST night--ah! yesternight--I flagged my queen
Steering for Grunsky's ice-cream joint full sail!
I up and braced her, breezy as a gale,
And she was the all-rightest ever seen.
Just then Brick Murphy butted in between,
Rushing my funny song-and-dance to jail,
My syncopated con-talk no avail,
For Murphy was the only nectarine.

This is a sample of the hand I get
When I am playing more than solitaire,
Showing how I become the slowest yet
When it's a case of razors in the air,
And competition knocks me off creation
Like a gin-fountain smashed by Carrie Nation.


SEE how that Murphy cake-walks in his pride,
That brick-topped Murphy, fourteen-dollar jay;
You'd think he'd leased the sidewalk by the way
He takes up half a yard on either side!
I'm wise his diamond ring's a cut-glass snide,
His overcoat is rented by the day,
But still no kick is coming yet from Mae
When Murphy cuts the cake so very wide.

Rubber, thou scab! Don't throw on so much spaniel!
Say, are there any more at home like you?
You're not the only lion after Daniel,
You're not the only oyster in the stew.
Get next, you pawn-shop sport! Come off the fence
Before I make you look like thirty cents!


MAYHAP you think I cinched my little job
When I made meat of Mamie's dress-suit belle.
If that's your hunch you don't know how the swell
Can put it on the plain, unfinished slob
Who lacks the kiss-me war paint of the snob
And can't make good inside a giddy shell;
Wherefore the reason I am fain to tell
The slump that caused me this melodious sob.

For when I pushed Brick Murphy to the rope
Mame manned the ambulance and dragged him in,
Massaged his lamps with fragrant drug store dope
And coughed up loops of kindergarten chin;
She sprang a come back, piped for the patrol,
Then threw a glance that tommyhawked my soul.


I SOMETIMES think that I am not so good,
That there are foxier, warmer babes than I,
That Fate has given me the calm go-by
And my long suit is sawing mother's wood.
Then would I duck from under if I could,
Catch the hog special on the jump and fly
To some Goat Island planned by destiny
For dubs and has-beens and that solemn brood.

But spite of bug-wheels in my cocoa tree,
The trade in lager beer is still a-humming,
A schooner can be purchased for a V
Or even grafted if you're fierce at bumming.
My finish then less clearly do I see,
For lo! I have another think a-coming.


LAST night I tumbled off the water cart--
It was a peacherino of a drunk;
I put the cocktail market on the punk
And tore up all the sidewalks from the start.
The package that I carried was a tart
That beat Vesuvius out for sizz and spunk,
And when they put me in my little bunk
You couldn't tell my jag and me apart.

Oh! would I were the ice man for a space,
Then might I cool this red-hot cocoanut,
Corral the jim-jam bugs that madly race
Around the eaves that from my forehead jut--
Or will a carpenter please come instead
And build a picket fence around my head?


AS one who with his landlord stands deuce high
And blocks his board bill off with IOU's,
Touching the barkeep lightly for his booze,
Sidestepping when a creditor goes by,
Soaking his mother's watch-chain on the sly,
Haply his ticker, too, haply his shoes,
Till Mr. Johnson comes to turn him loose
And lift the mortgage from that poor cheap guy;

So am I now small change in Mamie's scorn,
A microbe's egg, or two-bits in a fog,
A first cornet that cannot toot a horn,
A Waterbury watch that's slipped a cog;
For when her make-up's twisted to a frown
What can I but go 'way back and sit down?


O scaly Mame to give me such a deal,
To hand me such a bunch when I was true!
You played me double and you knew it, too,
Nor cared a wad of gum how I would feel.
Can you not see that Murphy's handy spiel
Is cheap balloon juice of a Blarney brew,
A phonograph where all he has to do
Is give the crank a twist and let 'er reel?

Nay, love has put your optics on the bum,
To you are Murphy's gold bricks all O.K.;
His talks go down however rank they come,
For he has got you going, fairy fay.
Ah, well! In that I'm in the box with you,
For love has got poor Willie groggy, too.


LIFE is a combination hard to buck,
A proposition difficult to beat,
E'en though you get there Zaza with both feet,
In forty flickers, it's the same hard luck,
And you are up against it nip and tuck,
Shanghaied without a steady place to eat,
Guyed by the very copper on your beat
Who lays to jug you when you run amuck.

O Life! you give Yours Truly quite a pain.
On the T square I do not like your style;
For you are playing favorites again
And you have got me handicapped a mile.
Avaunt, false Life, with all your pride and pelf:
Go take a running jump and chase yourself!


IF I were smooth as eels and slick as soap
A baked-wind expert, jolly with my clack,
Gally enough to ask my money back
Before the steerer feeds me knock-out dope,
Still might I throw a duck-fit in my hope
That I possessed a headpiece like a tack
To get my Mamie in my private sack
Ere she could flag some Handsome Hank and slope.

What ho! she bumps! My wish avails me not,
My work is coarse, and Mame is onto me;
So am I never Johnnie-on-the-spot
When any wooden Siwash ought to be.
Thus I get busy working up a grouch
Whenever heartless Mame harpoons me--ouch!


O Mommer! wsn't Mame a looty toot
Last night when at the Rainbow Social Club
She did the bunny hug with every scrub
From Hogan's Alley to the Dutchmen's Boot,
While little Willie, like a plug-eared mute,
Papered the wall and helped absorb the grub,
Played nest-egg with the benches like a dub
When hot society was easy fruit!

Am I a turnip? On the strict Q.T.,
Why do my Trilbys get so ossified?
Why am I minus when it's up to me
To brace my Paris Pansy for a glide?
Once more my hoodoo's thrown the game and scored
A flock of zeros on my tally-board.


NIXIE! I'm not canned chicken till I'm cooked,
And hope still rooms in this pneumatic chest,
While something's doing underneath my vest
That makes me think I'm squiffier than I looked.
Mayhap Love knew my class when I was booked
As one shade speedier than second best
To knock the previous records galley west,
While short-end suckers on my bait were hooked.

Mayhap--I give it up--but this I know:
When I saw Mamie on the line today
She turned her happy searchlights on me so,
And grinned so like a living picture--say,
If a real lady threw you such a chunk,
Couldn't she pack her Raglan in your trunk?


OH, for a fist to push a fancy quill!
A Lovers' Handy Letter Writer, too,
To help me polish off this billy doo
So it can jolly Mame and make a kill,
Coax her to think that I'm no gilded pill,
But rather the unadulterated goo.
Below I give a sample of the brew
I've manufactured in my thinking mill:

"Gum Drop:--Your tanglefoot has got my game,
I'm stuck so tight you cannot shake your catch;
It's cruelty to insects--honest, Mame,--
So won't you join me in a tie-up match?
If you'll talk business, I'm your lemon pie.
Please answer and relieve
                                     AN ANXIOUS GUY."


WOMAN, you are indeed a false alarm;
You offer trips to heaven at tourist's rates
And publish fairy tales about the dates
You're going to keep, (not meaning any harm),
Then get some poor old Rube fresh from the farm,
As graceful as a kangaroo on skates,
Trying to transfer at the Pearly Gates--
For instance, note this jolt that smashed the charm:--

"P.S.--You are all right, but you won't do.
You may be up a hundred in the shade,
But there are cripples livelier than you,
And my man Murphy's strictly union-made.
You are a bargain, but it seems a shame
That you should drink so much.
                                          Yours truly,


LAST night I dreamed a passing dotty dream--
I thought the cards were coming all my way,
That I could shut and open things all day
While Mame and I were getting thick as cream,
And starred as an amalgamated team
In a cigar-box flat across the bay--
Just then the alarm clock blew to pieces. Say,
Wouldn't that jam you? I should rather scream.

Sleep, like a bunco artist, rubbed it in,
Sold me his ten-cent oil stocks, though he knew
It was a Kosher trick to take the tin
When I was such an easy thing to do;
For any centenarian can see
To ring a bull's-eye when he shoots at me.


A PARDON if too much I chew the rag,
But say, it's getting rubbed in good and deep,
And I have reached the limit where I weep
As easy as a sentimental jag.
My soul is quite a worn and frazzled rag,
My life is damaged goods, my price is cheap,
And I am such a snap I dare not peep
Lest some should read the price-mark on my tag.

The more my sourballed murmur, since I've seen
A Sunday picnic car on Market Street,
Full of assorted sports, each with his queen--
And chewing pepsin on the forninst seat
Were Mame and Murphy, diked to suit the part,
And clinching fins in public, heart to heart.


FORGET it? Well, just watch me try to shake
The memory of that four-bit Scheutzen Park,
Where Sunday picnics boil from dawn till dark
And you tie down the Flossie you can take,
If you don't mind man-handling and can make
A prize rough house to jolly up the lark,
To show the ladies you're the whole tan bark,
And leave a blaze of fireworks in your wake.

'Twas there before the Rainbow Club that Mame
Bawled herself out as Murphy's finansay
And all the chronic glad hand-claspers came
To copper invites for the wedding day;
And when the jocund day threw up the sponge
Murphy was billed to take the fatal plunge.


AT noon today Murphy and Mame were tied.
A gospel huckster did the referee,
And all the Drug Clerks' Union loped to see
The queen of Minnie Street become a bride,
And that bad actor, Murphy, by her side,
Standing where Your Despondent ought to be.
I went to hang a smile in front of me,
But weeps were in my glimmers when I tried.

The pastor murmured, "Two and two make one,"
And slipped a sixteen K on Mamie's grab;
And when the game was tied and all was done
The guests shied footwear at the bridal cab,
And Murphy's little gilt-roofed brother Jim
Snickered, "She's left her happy home for him."


STILL joy is rubbernecking on the street,
Still hikes the Mags' parade at five o'clock,
Still does the masher march around the block
Pining in vain some hothouse plant to meet;
Still does the rounder pull your leg to treat,
Where flows the whisky sour or russet bock,
And the store-clothing dummies in a flock
Keep good and busy following their feet.

Rats! cut this out; for I'm a last year's champ;
Into the old bone orchard am I blowing,
So with the late lamented let me camp,
My walkers to the graveyard daisies toeing,
And shaking this too uppish generation,
Pass checks through cigarette asphyxiation.


TO just one girl I've tuned my sad bazoo,
Stringing my pipe-dream off as it occurred,
And as I've tipped the straight talk every word,
If you don't like it you know what to do.
Perhaps you think I've handed out to you
An idle jest, a touch-me-not, absurd
As any sky-blue-pink canary bird,
Billed for a record season at the Zoo.

If that's your guess you'll have to guess again,
For thus I fizzled in a burst of glory,
And this rhythmatic side-show doth contain
The sum and substance of my hard-luck story,
Showing how Vanity is still on deck
And Humble Virtue gets it in the neck.