Poem in Which I Consider
Al Pacino and January 7, 1961
When my mother was three months pregnant with me,
Al Pacino (Alphonse, as he was known back then) was arrested
on Park Avenue. Not the swanky Park Avenue in New York City,
but the less swanky Park Avenue of Woonsocket, RI, the town
where my parents lived and where I’d grow up. Pacino
was only 20 years old, not famous yet—my mother 25
and my father 34. William J. O’Coin, a 24-year-old cop on duty,
pulled over a suspicious vehicle that kept circling the same block.
Vincent J. Calcagni, of Rhode Island, was the driver.
Pacino and his friend Bruce Cohen had taken a bus in from NY
to visit. All three were wearing black masks and gloves.
O’Coin found a loaded 38-caliber pistol in the trunk.
Did this even make the newspaper? Did my parents notice?
I find Pacino’s mug shot online. He and his friends
were held on $2000 bail they couldn’t pay. The men
spent three days the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston
at which time it was found that the pistol was a prop.
I wonder now why it took so long to figure out
the gun wasn’t real. Pacino had maintained the guys
were all on their way to an acting job. O’Coin probably didn’t see
Pacino at the Charles Playhouse a few years later,
though Boston is just up the road from Woonsocket.
But once Pacino became a household name with The Godfather,
O’Coin had bragging rights the rest of his life. The cop died at 85.
Vincent J. Calcagni died at 67, without any record
of acting roles online. Poor Bruce Cohen has such a common name
I am not sure of his fate. The most famous Bruce Cohen,
a TV and film producer, was born in 1961, after this incidence
and a few months after I was born. My father and mother
are gone now, so there’s no way to ask them what they were up to,
if they heard a siren or saw red lights flashing on the wall.
My guess is they were fast asleep that Saturday night.
They were no-nonsense—my father a baker, my mother a nurse—
and often worked weekends. The actor himself had no comment,
but the town still remembers. Woonsocket’s Savini’s now serves
an Al Pacino sandwich—breaded eggplant, roasted red peppers,
spinach, mozzarella, and a balsamic drizzle.
Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is a distinguished university professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.