Christ for the revolution
Claudette’s friend Patrice was a first generation
American whose parents had done
what so many other French Canadians had done:
come down to work the textile mills.
Patrice spoke French well:
it was her maternal tongue since it was all she ever heard
in her home growing up.
Claudette enjoyed dropping in on her friend’s boutique
and having coffee in the storeroom. When business was slow,
like today, Patrice had no qualms about leaving the floor
and smoking in the back.
Claudette had brought a bag of pastries with her
and said that if we don’t finish these
you should take them home to Jack and les animaux.
These are not for Jack, ma soeur
he is already getting too wide in the middle!
Claudette knew she was right;
Jack had started letting himself go after their second child
Antoinette was born. His looks were still intact
but it was clear to Claudette (and Patrice)
that the old punctiliousness was gone and though Patrice teased
him lovingly about it she found herself looking
more often now at other men.
You should say something to him without the jokes
but Patrice was sure that he couldn’t go without his meat and potatoes.
He could be French Canadian, I swear
he reminds me more each day of mon papa who gained twice the weight my mother
did and she was the one who delivered seven children!
Patrice lit a cigarette. He doesn’t like
that I smoke, says my breath tastes foul in his mouth
but he still takes a pipe in the evenings
again, like my father.
Still, I should not complain about things like this
since they hardly count, eh?
I learned, Patrice
that you cannot be too picky with the men
but then again who can help it? You should see some of the ones
I met at the rallies. The things they believe
about liberation are admirable
but in other ways they are so conservative to the point it would
bore or disgust you. She made a lewd gesture with her
cigarette and Patrice nearly aspirated her coffee
Revolutionaries everywhere else-
Claudette tried an éclair.
I should not be eating this surtout pendant les fêtes . . .
butin de corps . . . .
I see you have not lost your pique,
Patrice chuckled. How are things with your
daughter now- I know you said she had to be taken
to hospital and was not sleeping.
Claudette blew smoke and watched it
dissipate. I cannot be sure. She says that she is better
but a mother knows things, right?
A friend of mine in the psych department gave me some
articles to read about manic personalities
but they don’t quite explain it
Trouble sleeping, Patrice asked.
She is having nightmares?
Yes, too many cauchemars and I don’t know
why this just started happening. Your kids are still
young enough still so you are now going
through the night terrors, yes?
Patrice nodded. You think this thing with Laura
is like night terrors, Claudette?
She seems too old for something like that.
Ouais, but Laura has always been different.
You should listen to the way she plays the piano;
that passion, like I feel about other things
but which I can link up to something outside.
Une cause, you know? Laura’s passion isn’t the world
out there, it is the world in here
she touched her breast. Sometimes I think the world
is coming through her instead of being out
there to be got to; like what I do with my marching and petitions
and all of that stuff-
She sipped her coffee.
But Claudette, you are just describing the experience
of the artist, that’s all. Laura sounds like she
has an artistic temperament. How does
that explain the intensity of what
she’s been experiencing-
But it does, you see. I know some say
these must be manic episodes of creation taking
their toll, leaving her prone to terror.
But I don’t see mania there.
In some ways she is like a young child. Oscar Wilde’s
innocent artist who remains open
They were both silent a moment.
Claudette put out the butt of her cigarette and removed
her coat from the back of the chair.
It’s funny, chérie but you think that all the passion
in the world is reserved for you in your work
and your body –the things that you do.
How many men did I have to leave because they couldn’t
understand that; thinking that my soul
and body were
their tawdry possessions.
And then there’s the world outside
trop laide and without hope; I realized some time back
that I’d traded Christ for the revolution
only to find that I’d found Christ again in my
child. They poisoned us, our parents,
don’t you know. She put on her coat and brushed
the errant crumbs off her sleeves
Weren’t we supposed to be too smart
for religion? Well, I know that you were born here
and so you’ve got the transplanted church. But I grew up
and watched people shake it off in the streets
and I thought quelle audace! when they started blowing up mailboxes
and saying that we were les nègres du nord
but now it’s all in my daughter,
Patrice wasn’t sure she understood her friend.
Claudette was prone to le drame
but this thing with Laura
was different. It had turned her inward
and that jauntiness,
that ribald side was missing.
When had she ever spoken of the Christ-
-Jeremy Nathan Marks