A Witness Disappears

The more she spoke, the darker it became.
She plunged into the forest everywhere and she saw the sea.
Busy holding on to my thoughts, I can't think, nor can I prevent the images.
—Oyster disgorger.
"They take them out of the sea and put them in basins, so that they will be less natural."
He had struck her.
She had remained alone in the company of her wound, not wishing to die.
—A port being cleared of sand.
"As for the animals, there's nothing to do but eat them. The worst thing would be to throw them away."
"Stones, that's different, when they're taken out of the earth or the sand, they lose their colors, there's nothing to do but throw them away."
She knew the picture without ever having seen it.
The wounded man brought to the beach, seated in an armchair, his back to the sea, to the spectator. Facing the firing squad.
—His house was cleaned. Everything left intact.
Crossing of the skin.
CROSSING OF THE SKIN.


*


To put on high heels, a slit skirt, to put on make-up, in order to go out on the dune.
Image of renunciation.
To get up, to get dressed, in order to check the mailbox.
To find there only a post card: his village's monument to the war dead.
Glue, scissors, pins.
That's not the accusation you meant.
Desire, too enormous.
I am not earthly enough.
In pain, yes.
I came here with Prince Mishkin. And one concern: where is the mailbox?
He had said:
—You will see the birds. Greet them for me.
Why live at any price? Why, once born, continue at any price?
I greet the birds for him. They are turnstones, little sandpipers.


*


"She had no one but herself: it was better."
The houses of that country were low and flat. You'd have thought you could only stay in them sitting down.
The painter's house could be found a bit outside the village, at the edge of the swamp.
Earth and sky go well together there.
The sea is not too far away.
We'll go walking there the next day, the days after.
We'll go to Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and to the port at l'Époids.
We'll go here and there, I don't remember all the spots precisely, but dunes and beaches.
And photographs in front of the church.
Saint-Nicolas-de-Brem.
The house is finished but the cement is still wet. It seems to me.
The painter lights a fire in the fireplace, he is bent over, seen from behind.
That day, or another, he gives me a little book, printed in Japan, One Hundred Sentences to Write on Fans by Paul Claudel.
I see the courtyard and the studio. The house is square, the garden in the middle.


*


I'm told: he hangs his canvases in the sun and in the wind.
He walks along the water's edge; he gathers traces on bits of fabric.
Of rocks, of the landscape. But not of the wind, nor of space, nor of transparency, which he will bring into being in other ways.
His surfaces are fragile and precarious.
Or meant for something else.
Commercial stationery, window-curtains, mattress ticking.
As if beauty intimidated him.
Later.
Wood that's present in the house, death present, cleaned off.
The woman speaks of another death in another house where wood is absent.
Wood of the armoires where the big mended canvases are stored.
Assembled and sewed.
The zigzags of color, when the fabric was too fine, fixed the paint onto a sturdier fabric.
Drawings made of dots, superimposed on the painter's.


*


Before nightfall, the paintings are taken out of the armoire, spread out on the tiles.
The canvases fire off their colors, to our eyes wide open in the darkness.
I remember his hair, long and curly, his smile, his attentiveness.
Suddenly one would think: he is here. So present.
He would peel potatoes for the meal: —You know, if they are a bit green, they'll make you ill.
He took care.
A large unexplored country.
I see the tables, the objects. The piling up.
The evening meal. Everyone has traveled. I more than anyone. I don't say anything and I get bored. He smiles at me.
Outside, the view has darkened on the Bad swamp, the High swamp, the Bly, Rye, Wye swamps.
At the port, too, it's low tide, the sea water has retreated, abandoning the earth which glows, in the setting sun.
The masses of kelp, the holes where water stagnates, the sandbars, are fictitious.
The light comes from the open sea, we turn our backs on it, we see the port back-lit, the water-soaked earth drunk and the sea gone away.
Far away, in the distance, the low houses, as if uninhabited.


*


He paints on brown wrapping paper, Canson paper, newspaper. Paper that's been oiled, gouached, scratched.
He paints on glass, panel, pieces of cardboard. Free, hybrid, light canvas, mattress ticking.
With oil paints. Vinyl, wash drawing, dye. Pencil, pastel, India ink. Printers' ink or ink for pens. And watercolors.
By rubbing, creasing, scratching, with cutter, pebble, with fingernail, matchstick.
He paints landscapes at different times of day.
He needs solitude.
Only in this case do apple trees, children, rocks, low stone walls, become deformed delirious, not in the grip of the fantastic, but the real, to which he submits.
The stretchers have marked the canvas with a cross.
The canvas has a flaw.
A drop ran down, and suddenly, an army of drops need to run, they must be hurled.
He paints or he writes quickly, inhabited by urgency, he takes the picture or the text by surprise, he battles with them, the image springs up from below.
He wasn't expecting it.
The painter is the only one who looks. When he closes his eyes, a witness disappears.
It was he, the last one.


*


Impossible gaze.
In vain do I, dancer, try to shift my head to the right or the left of my neck, it does no good.
I can't cast the insistent or distracted glance at myself which would be useful, what am I saying, indispensable, to stare at myself face to face.
Without overwhelmingly miming grandeur.
Outside the road was closed, thousands of papers covered it.
Themselves covered by thousands of words.
Crowd. Onlookers. Police.
A truck driver was arrested, a paper in his hand.
Guilty!
He was silent and so was I.
Busy as I was in the gardens near the palace sounding the basements.
Crying out:
—Water! I want water!
No one was listening.


*


A passerby snapped at me, disdainfully:
—Water from the earth is rare here. It can't be cultivated.
And with his chin pointed out to me, protected by iron gates and a bare-chested guardian standing, naked to the waist, his arms crossed, a small curved jet, like a bent penis.
—What are you doing? a policeman asked me.
—You can see that I'm working.
—That's not permitted here.
—I meant to say that I'm reading.
—That's different.
The policeman burst out laughing and he taught me to become a kite.
I flew off, but he held the string, I remained tied to the earth, I didn't lose myself in the air.
The policeman came back often and so did I, it was a change for me from indoors, where I was alone between the walls.
And where nonetheless I sensed, when I lent an ear to it, the bustle of a crowd at work.
I roamed from room to room, all empty, I found a photograph, it was of a man who had governed the palace in former days.
Who had taken it of himself in a mirror. The camera replaced the face, it was the face.


*


In order to maintain the struggle, I thought: I am Ang, I know what I am doing, what I am, what I'm worth.
It was winter, even indoors, the walls, the floor, were frozen, the entrances and exits dangerous.
One day, I remember, I was crossing the hall. I saw a man near the automatic door.
On his head was a miner's helmet, with a lamp atop it.
A light shone out of it, I thought I was cut into two bitter pieces.
Or struck by lightning since I was just at the intersection of photographic energy which prevents movement and magnetic energy which permits it.
Every battle is not worthwhile, I knew that.
But knowing it settled nothing.
I went out an unobtrusive door, down a few steps, and found a taxi.
When I arrived home the driver proffered money to me.
—Two hundred and fifty francs.
It was he who paid.
The crowd entered the subway, descended, sank into it as if drunk by the earth.
As for me, I went into my house, into the hallway.


*


One must not feel sorry for oneself, or that sentiment will replace everything, and then, what a bore.
I thought: indeed.
I went up one story, two stories, three stories.
I reached the sixth floor, my window beneath the roof, during the day I saw the whiteness of Montmartre and at night the lights that kept watch.
In the room facing mine lived a couple of foreigners, Yugoslavians
The woman spoke loudly, in fact, she shouted. Was she angry?
He never answered, not a word. And yet I knew that he was with her, in the room.
I imagined his body, massive and brown, facing her, seated, separated by the table.
I had seen him one day, he was walking on the roof in an elegant suit and polished shoes.
He walked alongside the drainpipe, he reached his room, that night unlit, he disappeared inside.
The following night, I saw his silhouette, this time lit by the moon, it was coming toward my window.
It came forward till it blocked out the sky, lit from within, the moon, a few clouds.
Until darkness ensued.
It's understood, don't repeat yourself, I've known it for a long time: one confuses the innocent with the guilty.