Juste une fable n° 47


dreamscapes (betrayals) n° 20



Mary Shaw


who understood whether communism really offered a better solution than capitalism?

certainly not you.

nevertheless, i was asked to witness a parade of paysans, a parade that was something like a dance to show me and a few others who were thought to earn their living by using their minds what the uses of communal living might be.

and the parade was wonderful, every bit as grounded yet unearthy as something that was inspired by kafka might lead you to expect. for the bodies were quite distinct, both the bodies of the paysan-dancers and those of the intellectual-writers, who i was mostly one of, watching, standing by.

the bodies of the dancers were at the same time very alive and very ancient, like gnarled trees, i guess, that could still be moved by the power of the wind, or also of rising earth or water.

and the bodies of the standers-by, though hardly moving, still arranged themselves into couples, but older couples who were now held together only by that strange energy we call love, which is at the same time very generous and very possessive, a force that simultaneously makes you want to give up everything to another person, and yet also

       gather back through that person the whole world unto yourself.

i was still feeling that for olivier, who was in his usual dignified position right beside me, at the same time joining as much in body as in spirit with the rather brutal, primitive movements of some of those old gnarled trees, and watching that feeling unfold in the form of a drama in another older couple who was like us but 

standing apart.

the woman in this couple and the man - both were french. but the woman probably had something like eastern european origins or some other brand of roots which paradoxically made her resemble more the american far westerner that i am than her mate, who was, i have to say, maybe not deep down, but quintessentially on the surface, in every way you can imagine and from every angle, french. 

and what this meant for the drama was that he'd been once again sleeping around. he hadn't joined in the parade exactly, but he'd managed to lie with one of the girl tree-dancers on the sidelines, without giving up his attachment to the woman who had come to watch the unfolding or revival of communal peasant living from the east.

       so this was what caused the terrible drama.

yes, she, the lady -  who was quite pretty and white-haired and statuesque, to the point that you understood perfectly why the man had no desire to ever leave her, so long as he was standing, even if he did, from time to time, want to travel or pretend to travel a little down river – was furious and was threatening to break up the party as well as the scene.

and so he – who thought that the best kind of life the world could possibly know was one where the elite would not tower over earth and imagine themselves or pretend to take on the form of gods, but rather line up judiciously on a plain as though there were no such things as mountains and valleys, and therefore no natural models for the differences between mud hovels and chateaux – was trying to reform himself, and repent.

and his repentance was now every bit as precious and needful to him as his waywardness had been before. i guess this was part of what made him so french. he was extreme both in his stable attitude about things and in his whims, regardless of the direction in which they went. and that was what kept him, more than most men, level-headed and yet always attractive. seductive and attracted to one and every kind of woman.

      and you? 

      i was dealing the best i could with trying to watch whether or not, or rather for how long, he would stay faithful in this mode to his wife, at the same time that i was extending my gnarled old hand to olivier, who was observing and listening to the rants and the rages of my dignified sister as she threatened to abandon ship or break up the parade.

and last, but not at least, i was  lacing myself between two paysannes, and stretching and twisting my bark 

       while rhythmically pounding your trunk

along with a few limbs.



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).


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