How hard for a dead man to pretend to be
alive and lusty among living ones!
But he must worm his way into society
hiding, for his job's sake, the rattle of bones.
The living sleep. The dead man climbs from his coffin,
and goes to the House, the bank, the bar...
The paler the night, the blacker his chagrin,
and pens scratch triumphantly hour by hour.
All day the dead man drafts a memorandum.
The office doors are closing. Watch him, hear
him whispering -- wagging his bottom --
whispering smut in a deputy's ear.
Evening draws on, with rain and soot splashing
the passers-by, houses, and all that trash...
To other filth the dead man is dashing
in a taxi-cab with a creaking spring.
The dead man hurries to a ballroom full
of people and pillars. He is wearing tails.
His hostess, a fool, and her husband, a fool,
receive him at the door with gracious smiles.
He is tired by a day at the office slaving,
but the rattle of bones is drowned by the band...
He must pretend to be one of the living!
Firmly he takes hold of a friendly hand --
Beside a pillar his eyes encounter
those of his partner -- she, like him, is dead.
Behind their conventional party banter
you can hear the truth that remains unsaid:
'Exhausted friend, in this room I feel foreign.'
'Exhausted friend, the grave is cold as snow.'
'It's twelve already.' 'You haven't asked N.N.
to waltz with you, and she loves you so...'
And there is N.N., searching with a wild look
for him, for him. There's thunder in her blood
and in her face, beautiful but childlike,
the meaningless rapture of living love.
He whispers words that have no meaning,
enchantments that the living so desire,
and he observes how her head is leaning
on her shoulder, how her cheeks catch fire...
The old familiar and malicious poisons
he pours into her ear with more than malice.
'How much he loves me. How clever he is!'
She hears a strange unearthly clatter -- his
castanet rattle of bones on bones.