They are saying in the tavern
That the world died yesterday.
All the street cars suddenly stopped running
With a grind that still echoes.
Some motormen fell forward, some backward,
Only in Muncie Indiana and in distant Belgrade
Did the motormen fall sideways,
And even there the conductors fell to the floor
Either forward on their faces or backward.
And as they fell the transfers scattered in the wind,
The coins rolled in all directions on the ground,
But no one reached for them.
Those nickels and kopeks,
Those rupees with Victoria’s silhouette
On imperial copper, the shekels and the dimes
Outlasted in motion and therefore time their pursuers.
Business had been good the last day the world lived,
The street cars were jammed to the doors
With women going to downtown stores.
They all died, like their husbands at work
And their children in the schools.
In P. S. 39 Miss Andrews asked the black boy
Who discovered America and the black boy did not know.
But the white boy knew and raised his hand.
The white boy’s father was a doctor who charged
       $100.00 to cure a pain
       $200.00 to ease an ache
       $300.00 to lift an agony
He said everyone discovered America,
Everyone who was brave and loyal and serviceful.
Then another boy stood up and asked
Who discovered Europe and Australia,
Who discovered Africa, who discovered the sky.
And when he finished the roof of P. S. .39
Cracked, then sagged, then came down on him
And all the others in a million jagged fragments.

They shake their heads, the propeller, the cactus, and the rock,
They drink their beer in silence,
Then they smile and once again they laugh.
The day the world died some fifty thousand funerals took place
And all the mourners fell beside the graves
And lay there motionless like flowers and wreaths.
They did not go home, as they had planned,
To eat the warm food, to walk inside the rooms

And listen to the silence undisturbed by the rattle
That sounds like angry crickets stuck in the throat.
They fell in the grave yards and no one buried them—
The living had died and the dead were unforgiving.

They laughed in the tavern and had another beer.
The most surprised of all when it happened, they say,
Were those in the London theatre, somewhere near the Thames.
The curtain came up and in the middle of the stage
The World Killer stood alone.
He told them in simple words, I will kill you.
None believed him, except for two men.
One arose and hurried to the box office for a refund,
The other applauded and shouted bravo, bravo,
And ripped the boutonniere from his lapel
And wildly threw it at the feet of the World Killer on the stage.
The audience looked on and disapproved
And when they died, they died proud and frowning.

There were some who were not surprised—
A mathematician who said subtraction was the creator,
That Subtraction on creation day less one
Created the God who made the moon and sun,
That Subtraction on creation day less three
Created the God who separated earth from sea
That Subtraction on creation day less six
Created the God who devised and kneaded man
That Subtraction on creation day less seven
Might finally have come to rest
Had it not on that day created addition and multiplication.

The propeller, the cactus, and the rock
Turned and faced the tavern wall;
What happens now, they asked the clock,
“Nothing,” it said.



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