For Ben Siegel, founder/builder of the Flamingo Casino, Las Vegas
Ben Siegel wanders through the casino,
his lips dangling a cigarette as he passes a blood spattered room.
The walls are covered over now: pink and cherry,
hard lines squinting in hard light,
papering over dark secrets–a body shoved in a hall closet.
No, he will not pause to investigate.
His casino is a woman bending to serve drinks,
her breasts, moon slivers peaking from
a white blouse, a cloud, tastefully shielded.
Now, music pounds the casino
like anvils wielded by depression-era workers
in rhythms of unceasing labor.
He looks away from girls dancing in cages above the casino floor.
Cover them up at once, he cries.
Lights whir and bells flash as a slot machine
opens grandly to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,
treasures of chocolate and dollars hoarded behind vaults,
cashed in with ugly slips of paper.
The elegance of gold coins caressed
between index fingers and thumbs, lost now.
Where is the largess, the courtly kindness,
a doorman bowing to a suited guest?
Where are the gowned women, all creamy shoulders
and pouty lips, eyelashes sooty with hidden promise?
The scent of hairspray is gone now.
Women buy their own diamonds.
He looks away from the gun that appears,
smoking in his hand, and wills it to disappear.
He clenches his teeth:
this, they will not remember,
as he opens a cabinet behind him
and tosses fistfuls of coins to guests,
ghost gold no one bends to scoop up.
Let me give you silk shirts, then, he cries.
I have dozens of them. He wants them to win!
His penance is roaming this casino daily, nightly, hourly
year after year, knowing they will not.
A woman slumps over a slot machine, dejected
as she pauses before slipping her last twenty in the bill feeder.
Ben Siegel puts his arm around her,
wills her to smile as she lifts her hand,
just one more pull. One more.
Robin Dawn Hudechek
Previously published in East Jasmine Review, December, 2014