Juste une fable n° 21
the escape through the high back door of the palace, that was the extraordinary thing. i knew i had to escape, for i was caught in a bloody political scene, with the king, or the emperor, assassinated. perhaps he was just a modern dictator, but he was one who believed in himself, and he’d been bludgeoned among his ministers. his bashed-in head was lying on the table.
of course i wanted to get out of there, to exit before anything like that would happen to me. so i climbed up the back stairs, such as you might find in a movie theater or enclosed stadium, till i made it to the small blue door. i was relieved that it opened easily to the outside. and once i stepped out – the magic moment. something like i’ve never seen.
i found myself on a high terrace of a structure that had many roofs, also many balconies with lattice-like railings to protect people like me who were trying to get back to the ground from the outside of the building. it was a bit like that feeling one gets in milan on the roof of the (many-spired) duomo, which is that you’d like to get down, you need to get down eventually, but you also sense it’s so beautiful, you could stay up there forever and wouldn’t exactly be wasting your time.
the colors of all this architecture, this vast palatial structure with its many intricate details, were blue and green, studded and lined here and there with bits of white and gold. so i realized i was in iran all of a sudden. maybe not what you’d think of as iran today, but the place that was still connected in all of its dimensions to persia.
little by little, and mostly on my haunches, or my bottom, the way i descend scary cliffs, i made my way down the many roofs, the many steps, the many domes and external stairways till i found myself safely set down like a child, or a fairy, on the lawn.
and what i saw there was more beautiful still. it was nature in all her glory, but honored, kept and worshipped also by the hand of man. i’m talking about an immense field of neatly clipped grass, a pond, and pink blossoms blowing in the wind. but, most of all, i’m talking about peacocks.
who made those birds? then decided to retain them and refine them through breeding from now on? there were many of them here, pacing, some with their tails proudly opened, some with their secrets closed. the colors of their tail feathers matched those of the palace, of course. but their bodies, instead of being choked in that dark, indeterminate color peacocks have wherever they aren’t splashed with jewels, were absolutely pure white.
why would i leave such a place? but soon after, i found myself beyond the gate, mixed with the rabble outside the palace grounds. and here the creatures i ran into were regular, beastly people just like the ones i had left inside. there were violent beer-drinking men, there were whores, set up in stands, so narrow that they looked like boxes. some of these were young and pretty, others not. and there were teenage boys also roaming in bands on the streets. only they among these people were marked by the colors of the palace. they had golden skin, as you’d expect, and had many different hair colors, sandy brown, jet black, dark brown, and even sometimes blond. but what they had that made them persian were remarkable eyes like in paintings, yet shining, and with a certain relief, set off like precious stones. and most of them, god help me, were of the most beautiful possible blue-green.
this made me feel uncomfortable for a reason i can’t explain. and it also made me think how different night is from day. for i have never had the cult of eyes like this. the only persian i ever knew was beautiful all right, and he was nineteen, then twenty. but he had eyes nothing like this. they were dark and shining, but the opposite of jewel-like, eyes where you could get lost and never be found.
from the blue-green eyes in front of me i must have been eventually distracted, for i got stuck once again witnessing clobbering and violence, this time just regular men attacking one another, and knocking over women and children in their paths.
and, of course, the last scene i remember featured this, several feet ahead of me, too far to reach, but close enough still for me to focus,
you mean to really see me?
yes, the outline of a tiny, running girl.
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).