East Side Moving Picture Theatre – Sunday

Source: Maxwell Bodenheim, ‘East Side Moving Picture Theatre – Sunday’ in Edward J. O’Brien (ed.), The Masque of Poets: A Collection of New Poems, by Contemporary American Poets (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1918), p. 17

Text:
An old woman rubs her eyes
As though she were stroking children back to life.
A slender Jewish boy whose forehead
Is tall, and like a wind-marked wall,
Restlessly waits while leaping prayers
Clash their light-cymbals within his eyes.
And a little hunchbacked girl
Straightens her back with a slow-pulling smile.
(I am afraid to look at her again.)

Then the blurred, tawdry pictures rush across the scene,
And I hear a swishing intake of breath,
As though some band of shy rigid spirits
Were standing before their last heaven.

Comments: Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954) was an American poet and novelist, who enjoyed some success in the 1920s and 30s. He was noted for his Bohemian lifestyle, followed by a descent into vagrancy and his eventual murder. The poem is set in Chicago, where he then lived.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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