Are learning how to be dead,
Aided by the impersonal boredom
Of a morgue at evening.
The morgue divides its whole
Of dead men's contacts into four
Parts, and places one in each
Of these four bodies waiting for the carts.
The frankness of their decay
Breaks into contradictory symbols
And sits erect upon the wooden tables,
Thus cancelling the validity of time.
In a voice as passive as slime
The negro speaks.
"Killed a woman: ripped her skin.
Saw her heart floating in a tumbler of gin.
Had to drink her heart because it wouldn't leave the gin.
Because I wanted to reach all of her
They ripped my flesh.
They wanted to reach all of me
And their excuse was better than mine."
Cowed baby painted black,
The negro sits upon fundamentals
And troubles them a little with his hands.
The beautiful insanity
Of his eyes rebukes
The common void of his face.
Then the Chinaman speaks
In a voice whose tones are brass
From which emotion has been extracted.
"Loved a woman: she was white.
Her man blew my brains out in the night.
Hatred is afraid of color.
Color is the holiday
Given to moods of understanding:
Hatred does not understand.
When stillness ends the fever of ideas
Hatred will be a scarcely remembered spark."
Manikin at peace
With the matchless deceit of a planet,
The Chinaman fashions his placid immensity.
The Chinaman chides his insignificance
With a more impressive rapture
Than that of western midgets.
His rapture provides an excellent light
For the silhouette of the negro's curse.
Then the white servant-girl
Speaks in a voice whose syllables
Fall like dripping flower-juice and offal,
Both producing a similar sound.
"I made a neat rug for a man.
He cleaned his feet on me and I liked
The tired, scheming way in which he did it.
When he finished he decided
That he needed a smoother texture,
And found another lady.
I killed myself because I couldn't rub out
The cunning marks that he left behind."
Impulsive doll made of rubbish
On which a spark descended and ended,
The white servant-girl, without question or answer,
Accepts the jest of a universe.
Then the Russian woman
Speaks in a voice that is heat
Ill-at-ease upon its couch of sound.
"I married a man because
His lips tormented my melancholy
And made it long to be meek
And because, when he walked to his office each morning,
He thought himself a kindled devil
Enduring the smaller figures around him.
He abandoned me for German intrigue
And I chased him in other men,
Never quite designing him.
Death, a better megalomaniac,
Relieved me of the pursuit."
Symbol of earth delighted
With the vibration of its nerves,
The Russian woman sunders life
Into amusing deities of emotion
And bestows a hurried worship.
Then the morgue, attended by a whim,
Slays the intonations of their trance
And slips these people back to life.
The air is cut by transformation.
The white servant-girl retreats to a corner
With a shriek, while the negro advances,
And the Russian woman
Nervously objects to the Chinaman's question.
The morgue, weary housewife for speechless decay,
Spends its helplessness in gay revenge:
Revenge of earth upon four manikins
Who straightened up on wooden tables
And betrayed her.