Maxwell Bodenheim

Negro Criminal

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From the pensive treachery of my cell
I can hear your mournful yell.
Centuries of pain are pressed
Into one unconscious jest
As your scream disrobes your soul.
The silence of your iron hole
Is hot and stolid, like a guest
Weary of seeing men undressed.
The silence holds an unused bell
That will answer your lunging yell
When your flesh has curled away
Into the burning threshold of a day.
Like the silence, I listen
Because I seek the glisten
Of a hidden humour that strains
Underneath the stumble of all pains.
Brown and wildly clownish shape
Thrown into a cell for rape,
You contain the tortured laugh
Of a pilgrim-imbecile whose staff
Taps against a massive comedy.
Melodrama burlesques itself with free
And stony voice, and wears a row of masks
To hide the strident humour of its tasks.
Melodrama, you, and I,
We are merely tongues that try
To loosen an elusive dream
Into whisper, laugh, and scream.

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Maxwell Bodenheim