Before he was a rat, Robert DeLuca was a poet – a jailhouse bard. Forget Steve Miller – Robert DeLuca was the real Gangster of Love, the poet laureate of La Cosa Nostra.
After DeLuca’s testimony this week in the murder trial of his old pal Cadillac Frank Salemme, I went back to my collection of Robert’s love sonnets to his beloved now second ex-wife Kimi. There are hundreds of them, one of which I even included in my book, “The Brothers Bulger.”
Perhaps you recall “Who’s Minding the Puppies?” in which Robert muses on the ruined state of the rackets in South Boston after Whitey Bulger went on the lam. Humanitarian that he is, Robert sadly contemplates the fate of Nikki and Gigi, the two black French poodles abandoned by Whitey’s fleeing galpal Catherine Greig.
“Who’s shaking down the bookies/And who’s gonna deal the drugs?/ Who’s gonna sell the stuff/From TV’s to Persian rugs?/ Who’s gonna travel the whole world/Disguised as a couple of yuppies?/And while Whitey’s with the Greig girl/ Who’s taking care of the puppies?”
This week in a federal courtroom here in Boston, DeLuca, now 72, has admitted to a host of crimes, including setting up a gangland hit in Rhode Island in 1992, as well as disposing of the body of the man Cadillac Frank is accused of whacking.
But awaiting trial at the Plymouth House of Correction 25 years ago, DeLuca penned another magnum opus about the original Mob racketeering case, “Guilty as Sin.”
“And even when these hypocrites/ say I broke a law or two/ I can look them in the eye/ And say it wasn’t me/ And when it comes to the case/The filthy feds have built/ Somewhere deep inside my soul/I know I have no guilt/And when these people accuse me/Of the laws they think I bent/I can always say to them/That I am in-no-cent.”
Then DeLuca abruptly begins directly addressing his beloved Kimi. Gone are the alibis and rationalizations as Robert whispers sweet nothings to the woman he considers the most beautiful girl in North Providence:
“But when it comes to loving you/ I don’t have a defense/I couldn’t for one second/Fake my innocence/For when it comes to loving you/ Kimi I can’t win/ For I am and always will be/Guiltier than sin.”
They don’t write love poetry like this anymore. Actually, people have told me Robert didn’t write this stuff either, that he cajoled some local-yokel Boswell at the House of Correction into penning all these verses for him. But hey, they said the same thing about Shakespeare, didn’t they?
A recurring theme in his BOP Ballads: Kimi is in North Providence, and Robert is in durance vile. Let me combine a couple of his jailhouse laments:
“Somewhere tonight/South of Boston/ In the Plymouth County jail/ There sits a man named Robert/Who is sorting through his mail.”
That’s from “Wrongly Separated.” Let’s pick it up at “Lonely in North Providence.”
“As I sit alone/In solitaire/Thinking that life/Ain’t treatin’ me fair/ Feeling so sorry/For only myself/ I try to remember/There’s somebody else/That is sitting alone/In the still of the night/Wishing that I/ was holding her tight/ Wishing that somehow/Things would make sense.
Then I realize you’re lonely/In North Providence.”
Like all great bards, Robert is influenced by the masters of yesteryear. Legendary Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson had a hellhound on his trail. DeLuca had a – well, let’s go straight to his homage to Johnson, “The Wolfman and the Mountain.” A wolfman is chasing Robert up a steep cliff.
“I’m staring at the mountain/And boy it looks so high/I don’t think that I can climb it/But I sure am gonna try/For you see my friend I’ve got/A wolfman following me/And unless I shake his tail/He controls my des-tin-y./I’m climbing up the mountain/I’m nearly halfway there/ I know I cannot stop/Because I fear the wolfman/Is gonna chase me to the top.”
(Spoiler alert: Robert gets away from the wolfman and reaches his “darling Kimi.”)
So much great verse, so little space – “Your Wild Cat Eyes,” and “Soggy Pretzels and Salty Tears,” which is not to be confused with “Salty Kisses.” Not to mention “Two Different Socks” and “The Ladder of Love.”
But let’s close as we began, with some doggy doggerel, “Puppy Dog Eyes.”
“Hey Kimi/You lovely girl/You’re the object/Of my desire/So wiggle your ass/Right over here/And set my heart/On fire/Come on darling/Don’t say no/to my sweet/Puppy dog eyes.
“Let me have/Your tender body/And let me hear/Your whimpering cries/Oh Kimi I’m a dirty dog/But I have sweet/Puppy dog eyes.”
I don’t know about his puppy dog eyes – they always looked kind of beady to me, like those of Mark Wolf, the judge Robert resembles so closely. As for being a “dirty dog” – I’m sure that’s what Cadillac Frank was thinking about him the other day when dirty dog DeLuca howled from the witness stand like a baying bloodhound.