Maxwell Bodenheim

1892 - 1954 / Mississippi / United States

Negroes

The loose eyes of an old man
Shone aloof upon his boyish face;
And a sluggish innocence
Hugged his dull brown skin.
He sang a hymn caught from his elders
And his voice resembled
A quavering, feverish laugh
Softened in a swaying cradle.
His life had found a refuge in his voice,
And the rest of him was sickly flesh
Ignorant of life and death.
Like a crushed, excited clown
His mother shuffled out upon the porch.
Slowly her dark brown face resolved
Into the hushed and sulky look
Of one who stands within a dim-walled trap.
Lazily uncertain,
She raised the boy into her arms.
Then her voice swung in the air
Like a quavering, feverish laugh
Softened in a swaying cradle.
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