Poet Bob Currie on Al Capone

Robert Currie at his house in Moose Jaw.
Photo: Thomas Bartlett
Robert Currie, former Saskatchewan Poet Laureate and long-time Moose Jaw Resident, wrote a poem called "Al Capone in Moose Jaw," which he shared with the "Finding Al" crew during a recent visit to the Friendly City. The poem is from his book Witness and is dedicated to Bob's former high school classmate Nancy (Beamish) Gray whose father is said to have cut Capone's hair on more than one occasion.

Bob said the poem was also partly inspired by the gangster movies he used to see when he was a kid.

"Every time some guy went into a barber shop, they’d put a towel across his face and outside the door, Tommy guns would open up and riddle the whole place, so I’m sort of playing off that a bit in this poem," said Bob. 

Other than hearing Nancy's story in school, Bob said no one really thought very much of Capone at all.

"But it kind of makes sense," said Bob about the Capone-Moose Jaw connection. "The Soo Line does come right up from Chicago and you know back in the day there was a certain amount of rum running and going out of Canada and into the States, so who knows."

Below is his poem, reprinted with his permission.  

Al Capone in Moose Jaw 

For Nancy (Beamish) Gray    

More than once I left Chicago far behind,

fled the heat, the rub of life along the lake.

I slipped away, up the Soo Line into Canada,

stepped down, a burst of steam, took the tunnel

underneath the tracks, rose beneath the bright arch

of the division point station, found River Street

awash with rum and willing women, policemen

already trained to look the other way. Oh, sure,

I might have had an itch to dominate that action,

but this was small-time stuff, Chicago was my town.

What I liked up here was Overs’ Barber Shop,

walking in alone, no one with me, not a man,

dropping into that great leather chair, clean-cut

Bill Beamish washing my hair, drawing damp strands

between the first and second fingers of his left hand,

the snep, snep of the scissors in his right, ahh,

settling deep into that chair, eyes closed, purrrr

of clippers on my neck, then the razor

by my throat, and no gun in my pocket,

snick, snick, snick, the sideburns squared away,

the sudden splash of Rum and Quinine Tonic,

the tingle on my scalp, fingers rubbed it in,
massaged the muscles of my neck,
worked above my ears, across my forehead,

zzzz, a hive of bees at peace, a comb, perhaps,

a brush, something passed across my head.
Ah yes, more than once I had my hair cut there.