Juste une fable n° 34
the call of the dove is all i hear, but what i saw was far from sweetness. me and others once again in a massive house, a mansion with many rooms and untold treasure. but all of this fine edifice,
in it, brothers and sisters. and i was, as usual, mostly focused on the girls, women and children who were being brought up and bred. at times, the thought of men turned to my own breeding. but for the most part i was observing beings already sealed within, carried into this great house, little creatures and their mothers, by someone who was building, watering, and seeding.
and among these children, you are certain some were yours?yes, a precious and important number.
but a question arose as to how many others might be given also to me. perhaps it was because i was mistress of proceedings that many of the women, some of them fine ladies, became preoccupied with this, wanted to know how it came to pass that so many young, even some of their own flesh, had been confided to my watching
almost to your breathing,when i told them i didn't know they had trouble believing.
so i explained that some had been given by consecrated rites, whereas others were mine by secular convention, and those who remained were actually bound by ties of love
so that love was the important thingand there was nothing else binding.
but this theological discussion soon went by the wayside. for i found myself wandering around the rooms of the house and marveling at all the beings and objects therein.
inside one bedroom, two young maidens, anna and jezebel, a budding actress and a dancer, day and night joined at the hip, though different. blond anna, the innocent, and laughing jezebel with fiery red hair. they'd forgotten to turn the water off when they had finished with their morning dressing, a veritable maze of grooming and adornment, a bathing and a polishing that made them equally fair.
and this turned to a terrible disaster?
a turbulent threat, let's say, for their room, as well as the basement, big enough that
i became concerned for the whole house. at one place, in the bathroom, at least five feet of water,
enough for an ample pool,
and i knew that would likely go somewhere.
water always has to go somewhere,especially if it falls in a random place.
so i went to find olivier, to see what to do about this flooding, restore through him the safety of the house. and he made arrangements with the other men so that the water would be carried in buckets and pails to the great field in the back, where it could spill into the grass, rocks and soil. there it would seep, gurgle, and trickle. not hurt a thing, bring forth doves.
so i could get back to my watching and my scheming, drawing out lessons for the mothers of those girls. was there anything left undone,
something needed for anna or jezebel?
our hands were full. there were choices to be made. should the two be taught to turn the water off together, or should each be kept alone in her own cell ? was it safe to retrieve their futures by golden ladders, or should they try their luck at flying through silver bells? here i had to keep in mind the ambiguous beliefs of old-world mothers, who were among the ardent faithful, yet could not conceive how heavenly bodies might heal themselves to become well.
and there were also those limited notions of brilliant colleagues to contend with, women wholeheartedly committed to their daughters, but who wanted me to judge them as being at once equal and undeniably special. i was supposed to see them as completely distinct and yet all the same. each was to be the slapdash winner of every contest and yet totally innocent, pure, so blameless they would all view themselves as bound to and on a plane with every other child.
how could this be done?
the usual dancing competition could by no means do the trick. instead, we'd have to make a puppet theater, something simple made of things that anyone could get at michaels, but gathered together without the strings attached.
so i set myself to making a simple model of the house with all the characters. and this was a rather astounding turn of events. for despite what a.r. ammons once wrote, i'm not good at making images. i am so impaired with processing appearances that i need olivier to help me see them. my eye gets muddled as soon as vision is reproduced.
still, i made my mind up that in this instance the only solution was to create this puppet theater, a doll house for my man and for my sisters and daughters.
and here's what it contained,
about eight characters from different walks of life, all in a giant room, and then a barn where they could keep their animals, mostly horses.
and because i was making this house to begin with for deirdre, whose double-daughter had left the water on the bathroom floor, red-haired jezebel with innocent blond anna, who'd bathed all morning and then skipped blithely out, i decided to make their features match those of deirdre, who had reddish-blond hair and a finely sculpted face.
this might have been a good move, since resemblances always help to open our own hearts up. once we are not hiding we can more easily accept the truth. but i guess it was also ultimately a wrong one, because although deirdre was moved by the intention and gesture and recognizing herself in the features of her daughters, she was also terribly offended by the lack of gracefulness in the figures i molded with my fingers and the really down-home plastic quality of the materials from which they were made.
she was after something more refined, with a high-end flair, which she could show to her friends before she would agree to settle and contemplate the play. why otherwise invest, as every viewer has to, before being struck by any structure that may contain uncanny beauty so as to behold its perfect relevance for the core of what we care for in life? and what bothered her most was that all the people, and her precious daughters even, were made out of simple playdough, which i had thought was appropriate, even though not quite as poetic as ashes or dust.
or maybe the real problem was that my artwork was not yet
sufficiently green for her eyes,
for when i reassured her that its value as a gift would not be threatened, that no one would be offended if all the materials were immediately recycled, she uttered a happy sigh.
we both knew my efforts would not end up in the trash. but i was quite amazed that this was deirdre's reaction, since the place she had come from was nothing like our sprawling manor.
it was a ranch house
in new jersey, with a garage
full of junk.
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 (2008).