‘There was a negro murderer in the jail, who had killed his wife; slashed her throat with a razor so that, her whole head tossing further and further backward from the bloody regurgitation of her bubbling throat, she ran out the cabin door and for six or seven steps up the quiet moonlit lane. He would lean in the moonlit window in the evening and sing. After supper a few negroes gathered along the fence below – natty, shoddy suits and sweat-stained overalls shoulder-to-shoulder – and in chorus with the murderer, they sang spirituals while the white people slowed and stopped in the leafed darkness that was almost summer, to listen to those who were sure to die and him who was already dead singing about heaven and being tired.’ (W. Faulkner, The Sanctuary)
The more I read this passage, the more I fall in love with the beautiful brutality of it and the way all these folks succumb to their fate (as they see it); propping themselves up on its flaking, painted spokes. Can’t help but wonder, tho: how come so much spirituality can’t stop that hand from slitting that throat? Sing. Prop yourself up, best you can; sing the pain away. And I think of a song I repeatedly catch myself singing: Lord I want to be like Jesus (and the next line goes:) inna my heart.
In heart but not in deed? Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts?