Public Enemy and Possible Poet: Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde)

Bonnie Parker (1910-1934)

“The country’s money simply declined by 38 percent”, explains Milner, author of The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde. “Gaunt, dazed men roamed the city streets seeking jobs … Breadlines and soup kitchens became jammed. [In rural areas] foreclosures forced more than 38 percent of farmers from their lands [while simultaneously] a catastrophic drought struck the Great Plains … By the time Bonnie and Clyde became well-known, many had felt that the capitalistic system had been abused by big business and government officials … Now here were Bonnie and Clyde striking back.” Milner, E.R. The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde.Southern Illinois University Press, 2003.

The Guardian recently ran a feature, ‘We donte want to hurt anney one’: Bonnie [Parker] and Clyde’s [Barrow] poetry revealed”Wow! Who knew? I certainly didn’t. The quote in the headline is allegedly Clyde’s work. He tried his hand, but it looks like Bonnie was the poet. For those who may not know these were Depression Era criminals in a day when the most notorious were labeled “Public Enemy” and these two certainly were, though they are often glamorized in media.

Apparently there’s a notebook in which the poems believed to be written by the couple are collected. It is up for auction by Barrow’s nephew.  (Find more details and photos of the notebook at Heritage Auctions. They’re also auctioning off photographs.)

A little further research – very little (but I was curious) – reveals that there are several poems popularly ascribed to Bonnie.  Here’s one:

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 hand 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
“At approximately 9:15 a.m. on May 23, the posse, concealed in the bushes and almost ready to concede defeat, heard Barrow’s stolen Ford V8 approaching at a high speed. . . .  The lawmen opened fire, killing Barrow and Parker while shooting a combined total of about 130 rounds.  . . Barrow was killed instantly [but an officer reports hearing] Parker scream as she realized Barrow was dead before the shooting at her fully began. The officers emptied all their arms at the car. Any one of the many wounds suffered by Bonnie and Clyde would have been fatal.” Wikipedia
All photographs in the post are in the public domain.

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