Or, the Hunter Gets Captured by the Game

 

Gather round me children and a story I will tell

About Morris Tulman the slumlord. Chelsea knew him well.

 

Lead paint, exposed wiring, leaky plumbing, rotting porches,

Broken windows, ceilings falling down, trash cans overflowing, rats and roaches.

These were just some of the complaints the tenement tenants of Tulman lodged

In Chelsea District Court. They were in the courtroom, but the landlord weaved and dodged.

 

Maybe he was relaxing at his house in tony Brookline, or driving in his big black Cadillac car. 

In any case, he didn't show. You can run, but you can't hide. He couldn't have gotten far.

The judge was pissed and issued a bench warrant. Chelsea Fair Share hired a school bus

And took dozens of tenants to visit him at his home. They were there to make a fuss.

 

They flyered the neighbors with a wanted poster and learned he was not around.

Back on the bus, over to his real estate office in Brighton, determined to run him 

to the ground.

          

Tulman came out hollering, telling them to get off his sidewalk, threatening to call the cops.

"Go ahead," they said, ignoring his angry bluster and leafleting the nearby shops.

 

When the Boston Police showed up, they wanted to know what was going on.

Shown the warrant, they went inside. Minutes went by until it seemed all hope was gone.

Then all of a sudden out came Tulman — in handcuffs, with a cop on either side.

 

 

On the bus back to Chelsea, the tenants laughed until they cried.

 

So let this be a lesson: If you are the one breaking the law, don't call in the police.

Poor people win, rich man loses, will wonders never cease?

I'll let Smokey Robinson have the final say:

It is not often that you see the hunter get taken by the prey.

 

"What's this old world coming to. Things just ain't the same

Anytime the hunter gets captured by the game."

                       -- Smokey Robinson



 

Postscript

 

This poem is dedicated to the memory of Barbara Bowen. She, along with her husband Mark Splain, Lee and Louise Staples, and Jim Katz started the community organization Fair Share in Chelsea in 1973.  Barb always loved the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" because it had the words Chelsea ("went down to the Chelsea drugstore") and fair share ("went down to the demonstration to get my fair share of abuse").  Massachusetts Fair Share grew and became a powerful statewide citizens action organization with chapters in a score of cities and towns. An "action" is any sort of demonstration aimed at getting a reaction out of an opponent, get them to agree to negotiate.  I call this the best action ever because it is rare that the target is carted off to jail right in front of everyone — a great lesson in the power of people acting together.

 

Written by America's greatest poet Smokey Robinson (according to no less than Nobel laureate Bob Dylan), "The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game" was a big Motown hit for the Marvelettes in 1967.  It was also covered by Ella Fitzgerald, the Grateful Dead, Bette Midler, Grace Jones, and Blondie among others.  

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