“Labor Day: Atlantic City” by Peter E. Murphy

Peter E. Murphy


This is the last you’ll see of Philadelphia drivers
who make illegal U-turns on Pacific Avenue,
then park themselves on the sand that will grit
against their skin as they Humvee the traffic-jammed
expressway back to the city that spawned them.
This is the day when Showboat and Trump
and the second tallest building in New Jersey
that reveled on the Boardwalk for just two years,
fold five thousand dealers into the street.
Also losing his job is Mr. Peanut because he swung
his cane at the juvies who tried to trip him.
Everyone wants to sell their houses.
When they advertise themselves,
the casinos euphemize gambling as gaming
and are required to state, Bet with your head. Not over it.
There are other words you need to know—Shoobie,
Ar-Kansas, Lucy, Wawa, FEMA—to make sense
of this island. My friend Sandy lost too much in a storm
named after her. Born on 9/11 long before the fall,
she dreams of waves, not jetliners, crashing into buildings.
What else can you say about a woman who backs up against history?
There are 228 steps to the top of the lighthouse
where you can see how the tide rips away at the dunes.
They put up a cage so you can’t throw yourself off after climbing.

Poets Respond
September 7, 2014

[download audio]


Peter E. Murphy: “While I have never been a fan of gambling, the casinos have created thousands of jobs since they opened in Atlantic City in 1978. Trouble is, they crumbled like sand castles when the economy took a dive in 2008. They crumble when every neighboring state decides they too want a slice of the enormous pie. The Revel was built out of failure. It envisioned a clientele that would value elegance more than a quick spin of the roulette wheel. They overestimated their customers and underestimated their overhead which was about $60 million a month. Trump Plaza has also been leaking money and just this morning, the headline on the local paper asks, ‘Could Trump Taj be the next casino to go bankrupt?‘ Another 5,000 people out of work.” (website)

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