Maxwell Bodenheim

1892 - 1954 / Mississippi / United States

Fifth Avenue (New York)

Seasons bring nothing to this gulch
Save a harshly intimate anecdote
Scrawled, here and there, on paint and stone.
The houses shoulder each other
In a forced and passionless communion.
Their harassed angles rise
Like a violent picture-puzzle
Hiding a story that only ruins could reveal;
Their straight lines, robbed of power,
Meet in dwarfed rebellion.
Sometimes they stand like vastly flattened faces
Suffering ants to crawl
In and out of their gaping mouths.
Sometimes, in menial attitudes
They stand like Gothic platitudes
Slipshodly carved in dark brown stone.
Tarnished solemnities of death
Cast their transfigured hue on this avenue.
The cool and indiscriminate glare
Of sunlight seems to desecrate a tomb,
And the racing people seem
A stream of accidental shadows.
Hard noises strike one's face and make
It numb with momentary reality,
But the noiseless undertone returns
And they change to unreal jests
Made by death.
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