was that you owed a good death.
Whether you were a good guy
or not, you had to die right.
If I came out from behind
something and pointed my finger
and said bang! before you did
and cried gotcha, you might
say no y’didn’t or gotcha
first y’dirty Nazi,
but in the end, we all had to die
with awful groaning and kicking
and many spasms and rolling
back of eyeballs and ultimately,
as anybody who’s ever seen
a dead guy knows, the tongue
must protrude, skewed
from a corner of the bluish lips.
And then, you had to stay
really still and painfully contorted
‘til you got bored and came back
to fight again or play red rover.
But it was not part of the deal
in the bang-you’re-dead wars
of South Sixth Street
that you got your balls shot off
or came back to play
wheelchair red rover.
Nobody on our street said
the way it happened when some
of us fought on other streets.
No amputees on Sixth.
No psych ward on Ohio Avenue.
- Ralph Murre
"Part of the Deal" was first published in The Cliffs Soundings and has subsequently appeared in my book Crude Red Boat (Cross+Roads Press) and in Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine.