Juste une fable n° 64
i was mesmerized, for sure, by the strong scent of my own uncertainty. i was doubting what i was doing there, and though i was mightily prepared,
everywhere you looked you lost your place.
i was once more participating in an examination and the beautiful girl i was supposed to be testing,
i both feared and loved. i feared her not because she had any ill intentions toward me, nor i toward her, but simply because i had been called upon to judge her and the conditions were highly ceremonious.
who are you to judge?
no one, no how. that has always been clear to me, and so whenever i am called to a jury, all i can see for good is that perhaps i can fill the space and help the poor judged to see that no one else can be in such a position, that he or she needs to learn that all the judging must come from within, from the place where calm reason reigns, and where there is nothing to judge.
but you weren't inside, you were outside. tell the truth about that.
o.k. there were 4 or 5 of us and i was one of the principals, and had prepared a very long speech. and natasha, she came in and sat at a very simple table. it wasn't in the room where we'll sit tomorrow. it was in a rectangular room, a large room, and the work of hers we were going to discuss had little to do with those word fragments that i usually deal with, known as poetry. it had to do with architecture, and the 17th century, and it was here that a strong relation and diversion was expressing itself between the culture that she came from, which was russian, and the one predominating at the time in france.
and this difference expressed itself in the exact position of a beautiful and richly brocaded gold curtain hung in front of some elaborately hewn rectangular wooden windows, planted in the façade of a building where i had never been before.
and i was a little terrified, for even though i was scheduled to speak, to hold forth considerably and had prepared myself with pages and pages dedicated to praising and judging all that natasha had done, i knew nothing about that curtain, though all of the other judges on the panel did.
and i was not to speak first after her, which perhaps could have saved me, because then my perspective could have possibly put a spin on every illusion that was about to take shape. no, i was supposed to join in, and my counterpart from france was looking at me, letting me know that i, being just beside her in the center, was about to have my turn to speak.
and even though i'd given up on seeing things in a similar way to others, on being able to fall in and make sense in an appropriate slot, was aware of being far out on the margins, and no longer had any business taking part in this event, i still thought i had to carry on, as if, simply open my mouth and speak, pronounce the words that i had written, so that the time and the space of the meeting would at least be fulfilled, and i would not have abandoned ship, walked away from natasha and my commitments on all sides.
so i was desperately looking for the beginning of the words that i had written and could thus simply pronounce. but i could no longer find them. there was a text of mine tucked safely into the brochure, but i was so far afield that i could no longer recognize it as mine anymore. it was no longer simply a problem that i didn't know what others were saying, what they were thinking, and how.
it was now the situation that
you didn't know what you yourself had written,
where it began, where it ended, and how to bring it to the fore.
Mary Shaw est professeure de littérature française des dix-neuvième et vingtième siècles à l'Université de Rutgers (New Jersey). Outre ses travaux universitaires, elle a publié deux livres pour enfants ainsi qu'un recueil de poésie intitulé Album Without Pictures (Halifax, N. S., Editions VVV, 2008).