Friday, February 18, 2011

Poor Max Jacob

Poor Max Jacob
Though a great poet
And enlightened soul
He was destined
To remain poor
All his life
For both lyricism
And food

Max was born a Jew
And he died a Jew
For the crime
Of being a Jew
In a German concentration camp
In Drancy
Even though he had converted
To Catholicism
Some twenty-nine years
Before his death
After viewing
A vision of Jesus
In his bathroom mirror
Or some such miracle
Or so he claimed

But to the Nazis
He was the eternal Jew
And he was rounded up
With all the rest of them
Yellow star-patches on their arms
Stuffed into the waiting cattle cars
For the one way journey
To German hell
Not long after
German troops
Marched into Paris
Strutting their stuff
Along the Champs-Elysee

But before the Nazis
Pestilence descended
Paris was still
The city of light
The world’s great city of art
And home for artists
Famous the world over

And Max knew all the great ones
From Picasso to Apollinaire
Though he lacked their resources
And was not nearly so debonair
He may have been
A poor man
A simple man
Yet he was a poet
Of wisdom and skill

He was mostly known
As the hermit like
Patron saint
Of the rue Ravignan
And as the author
Of Le Cornet a Des

He was a familiar sight
Among the bohemians
Of Montmartre
The Greenwich Village of its day
Dressed in his thread bare
Yet oddly elegant
Vagabond poet style
He was Charlie Chaplin
To Picasso’s glum majesty
And to Apollinaire’s
Hail fellow well met

They were the three musketeers
Who set the style and tone
Of the epic
Post war and pre war years
That gave the world
Cubism and so many
Now familiar works of art
Before the world
Once again decided
To go mad
And to again tear
Itself apart

The little bande Picasso
Might invite painters like Juan Gris
To supper at the Lapin Agile
To read and discuss
Poetry and art
While the wine flowed freely
All night long

Those were the happy times
The happy years
And I would have loved
To have been alive back then
And to have been able
To have taken part

But sadly
The good times
Were not to last
The war came
And all was lost
And Paris
Was no longer
The city of light

And like the poets Garcia Lorca
And Saint-Pol-Roux
Max Jacob
May he rest in peace
Was just one of the millions
And millions
Of women
And men
Killed by the war
Simply because
They were

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

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