Man and Woman go through a Cancer Ward
This row here is made up of collapsed wombs.
and this row is made up of collapsed breasts.
Bed stinks by bed. The nurses change each hour.
Come, you may safely draw back his cover.
Observe, this knob of fat and fetid pus,
that was once large to some man or other
and signified passion and athomeness.
Come and observe this scar upon the breast.
Do you feel the rosary of softened knots?
Yes, touch it. The flesh is soft and feels no pain.
Here, this one bleeds as from thirty bodies.
No man on earth has so much blood.
This one here first had
a child cut out of the cancered womb.
They are left to sleep. Day and night – New ones
are told: here one sleeps one’s way to health – for
Sunday visits they’re made a little brighter.
Only a little nourishment is taken.
The backs are sored. You see the flies. Sometimes
the nurse washes them. As one washes benches.
Here the land is swirling up around each bed.
Flesh subsides to soil. Red heat dies off.
Sap starts to trickle. The earth is calling.
A drowned drayman was propped up upon a dissecting table. Someone or other had stuck a dark-lilac aster between his teeth. As I was cutting through his chest from under his skin with a long knife, to extract his tongue and palate, I must have nudged the flower, for it slid into the brain beside it. As he was being sewn up, I packed the flower back into his stomach cavity, between the padding. Drink to the full in your new vase! Rest in peace, little aster!
The poorest women of Berlin – thirteen children in one and a half rooms, whores, criminals, the outcast – writhe here in their bodies and whimper. Nowhere else is there so much wailing. Nowhere else is so much pain and sorrow so completely ignored by all, because here something is always screaming. “Push harder, woman! Do you understand? You are not here to have fun. Don’t drag things out. Even if shit also comes out when you push! You are not here to have a rest. It won’t come out by itself. You must do your bit!” Finally it arrives: blue and small. Urine and excrement anoint it. From eleven beds of tears and blood a whimpering salutes its arrival. From two eyes only arises a chorus of cries of Jubilate to the Heavens above. Through this meagre piece of flesh everything will go: misery and happiness. And should it some day die spluttering and in torment, twelve others will still be lying in this ward.
Everything is white and ready for incision. The scalpels glow. On the stomach lines have been drawn. Under the white sheets there is something that whimpers. “Dear Privy Councillor. It is time”. The first cut. As if one is cutting bread. “Bring the forceps!”. Red is spurting from somewhere. Deeper. The muscles: moist, glowing, fresh. Is this a bunch of roses on the operating table? Is that pus that is now spurting? Have the bowels been slit? “Doctor, if you stand in the light, none of us can see his innards”. Bring anesthetic. I can’t operate. The man is going walk about with his stomach. Silence. Heavy, moist. Through the emptiness there rattles a pair of scissors thrown to the flour. And the nurses with the feeling of angels hold out sterile swabs. “I can’t find anything in this muck!” “Blood is turning black. Take the mask off!” “But – Oh, God in Heaven – friend, just hold the clamps closer together. Everything is a mess. But finally: we’ve got it. “Hot iron, sister!” It sizzles. You have been lucky again, my son. The thing was about to perforate. “Do you see that tiny green spot? – In three hours the stomach would have been full of muck”. Close up the stomach. Close up the skin. “Bring some plaster!” “Good day to you, Gentlemen”. The operating theatre empties. Raging, death rattles and grinds its teeth, and slinks into the cancer ward.
There are two on each table: men and women criss-crossed. Together, naked, and yet without torment. Their skulls open. Their chests cleaved. Their bodies give birth for the very last time. Each one yields three bowls: from brains to scrotum. And God’s temple and the devil’s stable now breast to breast at the bottom of a pail sneer at Golgotha and the Fall of man. The remainder into coffins. All newborns:. men’s legs, chests of children and women’s hair. I saw two, who once fornicated, lying there, as if from the body of their mother.
The solitary molar of a whore,
who had died without name or address,
contained a gold filling.
The remaining teeth,
as if in silent agreement,
had already decamped.
The mortuary attendant removed this final tooth,
which he pawned,
so that he could go to a dance.
For, as he said: only earth should return to earth.
I live beast days. I am a water hour.
At night my eyelids droop like forest and sky.
My love knows few words:
I like it in your blood.