This girl hits all the right notes.
This girl hits all the right notes.
7 days till St. Thomas. In which I will sink my feet in fine,
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
We have here, she said, only one sun in the month, and for only a little while. We rub our eyes days ahead. But to no purpose. Inexorable weather. Sunlight arrives only at its proper hour.
Then we have a world of things to do, so long as there is light, in fact we hardly have time to look at one another a bit.
The trouble is that nighttime is when we must work, and we really must: dwarfs are born constantly.
When you walk in the country, she further confided to him, you may chance to meet with substantial masses on your road. These are mountains and sooner or later you must bend the knee to them. Resisting will do no good, you could go no farther, even by hurting yourself.
I do not say this in order to wound. I could say other things if I really wanted to wound.
The dawn is grey here, she went on to tell him. It was not always like this. We do not know whom to accuse.
At night the cattle make a great bellowing, long and flutelike at the end. We feel compassionate, but what can we do?
The smell of eucalyptus surrounds us: a blessing—serenity, but it cannot protect us from everything, or else do you think that it really can protect us from everything?
I add one further word to you, a question rather.
Does water flow in your country too? (I don’t remember whether you’ve told me so) and it gives chills too, if it is the real thing.
Do I love it? I don’t know. One feels so alone when it is cold. But quite otherwise when it is warm. Well then? How can I decide? How do you others decide, tell me, when you speak of it without disguise, with open heart?
I am writing to you from the end of the world. You must realize this. The trees often tremble. We collect the leaves. They have a ridiculous number of veins. But what for? There’s nothing between them and the tree any more, and we go off troubled.
Could not life continue on earth without wind? Or must everything tremble, always, always?
There are subterranean disturbances, too, in the house as well, like angers which might come to face you, like stern beings who would like to wrest confessions.
We see nothing, except what is so unimportant to see.
Nothing, and yet we tremble. Why?
We women here all live with tightened throats. Do you know, although I am very young, in other days I was still younger, and my companions were too. What does that mean? There is surely something horrible in it.
And in other days when, as I have already told you, we were younger still, we were afraid. Someone might have taken advantage of our confusion. Someone might have said to us: “You see, we’re going to bury you. The moment has arrived.” We were thinking: “It’s true, we might just as well be buried this evening, if it is definitely stated that this is the moment.”
And we did not dare run too much: Out of breath, at the end of a race, arriving in front of a ditch all prepared, and no time to say a word, no breath.
Tell me, just what is the secret in regard to this?
There are constantly, she told him further, lions in the village, who walk about without any hindrance at all. On condition that we pay no attention to them, they pay no attention to us.
But if they see a young woman running in front of them, they have no desire to apologize for her anxiety. No! They devour her at once.
That is why they constantly walk about the village where they have nothing to do, for quite obviously they might yawn just as well as elsewhere.
For a long, long time, she confided to him, we have been in combat with the sea.
On the very rare occasions when she is blue, soft, one might suppose her to be happy. But that would not last. Her smell says so anyway, a smell of rot (if it is not her bitterness).
Here I should explain the matter of the waves. It is terribly complicated, and the sea … I implore you, have confidence in me. Would I want to deceive you? She is not only a word. She is not only a fear. She exists; I swear it to you; one sees her constantly.
Who? Why, we, we see her. She comes from far away to wrangle with us and to terrify us.
When you come you will see for yourself, you will be very startled. “Well, I’ll be …!” you’ll say, for she is stupefying.
We’ll look at her together. I am sure I will not be afraid. Tell me, will this never happen?
I cannot leave you with a doubt, she continues, with a lack of confidence. I should like to speak to you again of the sea. But the obstacle remains. The streams go forward; but not she. Listen, don’t be angry, I swear it to you, I wouldn’t dream of deceiving you. She is like that. No matter how excited she gets, she will halt before a little sand. She’s a great falterer. She would certainly like to go forward, but there’s the story.
Later on, maybe, some day she will go forward.
“We are more than ever surrounded by ants,” says her letter. They push the dust uneasily at top speed. They take no interest in us.
Not one raises its head.
This is the most tightly closed society that could exist, although outdoors they spread out constantly in all directions. No matter, their projected schemes, their preoccupations … they are among themselves . . . everywhere.
And up to the present time not one has raised its head toward us. It would rather be crushed.
She writes to him again:
“You cannot imagine all that there is in the sky, you would have to see it to believe it. So now, the … but I’m not going to tell you their name at once.”
In spite of their air of weighing a great deal and of occupying almost all the sky, they do not weigh, huge though they are, as much as a newborn baby.
We call them clouds.
It is true that water comes out of them, but not by compressing them, or by pounding them. It would be useless, they have so little.
But, by reason of their occupying lengths and lengths, widths and widths, deeps also and deeps, and of puffing themselves up, they succeed in the long run in making a few droplets of water fall, yes, of water. And we are really wet. We run off furious at having been trapped; for nobody knows the moment when they are going to release their drops; sometimes they rest for days without releasing them. And one would stay home waiting for them in vain.
The education regarding chills is not well handled in this country. We re ignorant of the true rules and when the event appears, we are taken unawares.
It is Time, of course. (Is it the same with you?) One must arrive a little sooner than it does; you see what I mean, only a tiny little bit ahead. You know the story of the flea in the drawer? Yes, of course. And how true it is, don’t you think! I don’t know what more to say. When are we going to see each other at last?
- 1938 Henri Michaux, I am writing to you from a far off country (je vous écris d’un pays lointain plume précédé de lointain intérieur)