Boarding-House Episode

Apples race into appetites:
The unswerving mechanism of the table
Hurries through the last dish of supper.
Then an undulating interlude
From people who have spent one pleasure,
Distractedly juggling its aftermath
And peering at new desires.
One woman gazes at another
While twitching murder shimmers in her eyes
And skims across her face.
Violets in a madman's scene,
Suspended in the air,
Are the eyes of her neighbour.
And in between them sits the nervous man
With face like pouting gargoyle,
Whose brown eyes shout the things he cannot say:
Explosive evasions;
Fears too tired to shriek;
Renunciations groaning from their dungeons.
He eyes each woman, like a man
Solemnly trying to walk on mysterious ice.
Crisp inanities ripple back and forth
Among these three, like ghostly parrots
Visiting each other's cages.
She with crazy, violet eyes,
Plays with her fork, as though its clink
Rhymed with secret, chained thoughts;
She with murder in her eyes,
And curtly voluminous body,
Evenly plays her child-rôle.
Cringing on the rim of middle age,
With broken shields piled at her feet,
She has made this man a haunted palace
And she stands before the door
She dare not open, with a dagger
For the woman standing at her side.

They sit, afterwards, upon the veranda,
Meekly greeting the velvet swagger of evening:
Woman with twisted, violet eyes,
Woman with hidden murder on her lips,
And man like a pouting gargoyle.
Then, like tired children,
Their words grow cool and lazy.
They draw closer to each other
And, with a trembling curiosity,
Look at each other's hands.

by Maxwell Bodenheim

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