Maxwell Bodenheim

1892 - 1954 / Mississippi / United States


Like a vivid hyperbole,
The sun plunged into April's freshness,
And struck its sparkling madness
Against the barnlike dejection
Of this dark red insane asylum.
A softly clutching noise
Stumbled from the open windows.
Now and then obliquely reeling shrieks
Rose, as though from men
To whom death had assumed
An inexpressibly kind face.
A man stood at one window,
His gaunt face trembling underneath
A feverish jauntiness.
A long white feather slanted back
Upon his almost shapeless hat,
Like an innocent evasion.
Hotly incessant, his voice
Methodically flogged the April air:
A voice that held the clashing bones
Of happiness and fear;
A voice in which emotion
Sharply ridiculed itself;
A monstrously vigorous voice
Mockingly tearing a life
With an unanswerable question.

Hollowed out by his howl,
I turned and saw an asylum guard.
His petulantly flabby face
Rolled into deathlike chips of eyes.
He bore the aimless confidence
Of one contentedly playing with other men's wings.
He walked away; the man above still shrieked.
I could not separate them.
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