Addicted to absinthe
and hashish,
was a troubled soul.

Impoverished in Paris
before the war,
he lived without running water
and moved whenever
the rent was due.

He roamed the streets
in drunken squalor,
desperate to sell his art
for a drink.

He clowned around
with razor-sharp wit,
meningitis eyes
and sparkling lips.

Incensed by anti-Semitism
in France,
he’d take off his pants,
and dance naked
on café tables to show
he was circumcised.

Painfully aware
of the Royalists’ role
in the Dreyfus Affair,
he’d gaze intently
in to the eyes of a bourgeois
and greet him
with a blazing surprise:

“Hello, I am Modigliani;
I am a Jew”