Mayakovsky arrives with plans for the woman to be a tightrope walker, terpsichorean feats of balance, scaler, scalar and scales, Libra and librium—
But is pre-empted by the scene…
Coming across a woman furiously paddling a grave for herself,
Not keeping off the grass,
The slithy earth ejected behind her in sprays.
By which he can confirm to himself (assuming it is the same woman) that he has begun to disturb her equanimity.
The exercise doing her good: healthy she’d be, when she lay down in her grave.
—I take it you wish to die… have you thought this through…?
—My wish does now coincide with what must happen to me, yes.
(I’m unlike a surprisingly large number of people in that.)
Aside. He quite liked American Westerns, Mayakovsky did. And quite the best thing was the transmogrification of the barber to undertaker, perfectly accomplished, even, he may say, seamlessly, in the best barber/undertaker westerns.
With an eel’s wriggle in the turbid water, two taps on an earthenware basin’s rim, a wipe with the towel,
—Guess we’ll be needing more coffins.
And a lascivious glance at the boards of the boardwalk.
The barber, Jedediah or Luke, surgeon, undertaker and the old survivor guy knowing the drill.
How many we presently got out back? Two? We’re going to need at least four…
Numeration. And the one who is never part of the count. Mayakovsky knew not to think about that whole business during la petite mort of having a haircut.
To the woman digging a trench in the park that was a grave,
—What about the last part? Have you engaged someone? I can’t believe you’d want to do it all yourself.
—I was hoping to pay someone, a hired gun, like…
—Hoping? Quizzically, Mayakovsky.
—The sort of person who would do it for free, I don’t want to be killed by.
A practised tear wobbles on the lower lid, then breaks for freedom down.
You haven’t thought it through, have you. Amour-propre, self-actualisation.
He decides to change plans, on the fly, go for something big, not just a tightrope walker, something that would really shake her down: transubstantiation.
—You might be Electra.
She looks concernedly flattered. Good thing, bad thing, any thing?
—I might be…
Ambivalently. Is all she can manage in reply.