by Jean Follain
The fineness of things gives the universe nobility. Behind each thing a password lies hidden. These fragile cups, these crystal glasses, how carefully they must be put into the cupboard! The maid gets up on a chair when they belong on the highest shelf. They link us to the world whose tarnished images blur together. In the same way a boy, seeing old straw beehives, thinks of the Gauls' huts in his History of France. Suppose the boy's mother happens to say to him, "You're heartless," and the sentence echoes deeper and deeper inside him. The world around him is veiled, sadness hangs heavily on roofs with weathervanes depicting a variety of things, even racehorses ridden by their jockeys. Sadness covers everything, even toys. It's sadness for the end of the world, for the last judgment. "No," the child answers, "I am not a bad boy because I cried when grandfather died." "Maybe so," the mother comes back, "but you aren't always good." That's like telling him he is good sometimes, anyway. So the universe clears up again, things regain their glitter, clouds are proud and graceful. Once more decorations and everyday things sparkle. You hear the saw grinding into wood, food boiling, even if it's one of those monotonous long days that persist in having been, long after the memory of them is gone.
Jean Follain (French, 1903-1971) was, besides being an extraordinary writer, a lawyer and judge.
Translators Mary Feeney and William Matthews chose the above prose poem and others from Jean Follain's Tout instant (1957) and Appareil de la terre (1964) for a small collection of his work called A World Rich in Anniversaries.