Maxwell Bodenheim

1892 - 1954 / Mississippi / United States

Jack Rose

With crafty brooding life turned to Jack Rose
And made him heroin-peddler, and his pose
Was sullenly reflective since he feared
That life, regarding him, had merely jeered.
His vanity was small and could not call
His egoism to the dubious hall
Of fame, where average artists spend their hour.
Doubting his powers he was forced to cower
Within the shrill, damp alleys of his time,
Immersed in that brisk midnight known as crime.
He shunned the fiercely shrewd stuff that he sold
To other people, and derived a cold
Enjoyment from the writhing of their hearts.
A speechless artist, he admired the arts
Of blundering destruction, like a monk
Viewing a play that made him mildly drunk.
And so malicious and ascetic jack
Bent to his trade with a relentless back
Until he tapped an unexpected smile-
A woman's smile as smooth and hard as tile.
May Bulger pawned her flesh to him and gave
His heroin to her brother, with a grave
Reluctance fumbling at her painted lips.
Though angry at herself, she took the whips
Of undesired love, to quiet a boy
Who wept inanely for his favorite toy.
She hated Jack because he failed to gloss
And soften the rough surface of her loss,
His matter-of-fact frown biting at her heart.
He hated her because her smiling guess
Had robbed him of ascetic loneliness,
And when her brother died, Jack sat beside
Her grief and played a mouth-harp while she cried.
But when she raised her head and smiled at him-
A smile intensely stripped and subtly grim-
His hate felt overawed and in a trap,
And suddenly his head fell to her lap.
For some time she sat stiffly in the chair,
Then slowly raised her hand and stroked his hair.
220 Total read