Paix, Joie, Santé, Bonhomie, & Thibault

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They sound like four little elves, don’t they! I’m sorry, I’ve been rubbish so far this year. Sick in bed for part of it, and immersed in lots of book-intensive activity: reviewing, profiling,  prepping the TS Eliot shortlist workshop on Saturday, getting ready for the start of term. Reading since Christmas includes: Kate Tempest’s The Brand New Ancients, Helen Mort’s Division Street, Vahni Capildeo’s Utter!, Esther Morgan’s Grace, the new Dark Horse magazine, all ten of the TSE shortlistees (which includes a few quite heavyweight fat ones), and the new issue of Cake magazine, which arrived yesterday and I couldn’t resist. I want to write about all of this but no time, no time, but here is a New Year’s greeting,. which comes to you straight from my earlier newsletter. (Sign up on the sidebar if you want to start getting it.) There’s a not-done, inconclusive feeling about not having managed to get my Christmas e-card done this year, and then failed at a New Year’s one too ; this is exacerbated by the fact that the Baroque christmas tree is STILL UP. THAT is how things are going here. But although no card-based Photoshop, there is this picture, which I find ethereally beautiful. And so…

With this C19 French Christmas card I wish you a good start on the journey of 2014 – with peace, joy, health, and happiness. ‘Poetry’ is present too, in the form of the lobster, whom we will take to be Thibault – the lobster Gérard de Nerval walked in a silk ribbon through the gardens of Paris. Here’s to a year of words on paper, and creative companionship.

Thibault’s Ribbon

See, there goes the writer Gerard de Nerval
with Thibault, his lobster, hobbling behind him:
docile, tranquileun philosophe de la mer
held on an evanescent, pale blue ribbon.
It is his ribbon that interests us. Thibault
himself is an inspiring presence, a spur
to the conscience (-ness  of cognizence), and dignified
beyond the constraints of his harness – necessity
made practice by the absence of a neck;
but it is the ribbon that both tethers and flies.
No, no;  Thibault can only be held on a slice
cut from a something that seems to come to life
in this etiolated form, with him at one end
and us, I suppose, at the other, while along its length
shimmers the sky, which we’re used to; but even that
is a construct, something we attribute to the gaps
at the tops of trees…Thibault himself is dark
as a branch, hard as a tortoiseshell comb, flecked
as an egg. He looks straight ahead
with his intelligent, glistening, chocolate-drop eyes.
The populace – that higgledy-piggle of parasols,
mess of detail, earrings, children with puppies,
frail old men with walking sticks,  monocles, shawls,
young people with picnics, boot buttons, fringes and laces,
reticules, bonnets – holds its breath to hear
his claws clacking along on the path of the Jardin
du Palais Royal.
…………………..He looks neither right nor left
(as he has no neck), but lets his long strands of feelers
feel the way, twitching here and there around him.
His tail fans out along the speckled pebbles
smoothing them as it goes: does it feel the pebbles,
or do they feel it? The thing is, he is happy.
The sun has made his shell warm, his flesh inside it pink,
the spring air somehow reminiscent of salt.
Mothers, not seeing this, pull their children aside,
tell them, Ma cherie, don’t get too close.
Thibault’s young owner, the self-named Nerval –
let’s not forget about him. He lives in dreams.
He feels colours, sees music, and annoyed the lobstermen
greatly down several alleys before he escaped
with Thibault tucked safely inside his weekday waistcoat.
He walks slowly in the sunshine, in solid boots
and a velvet jacket: a future suicide,
letting the strip of ribbon rest in his hand.

©Katy Evans-Bush, from Egg Printing Explained, Salt Publishing