A BANQUET OF VARIOUS HEADS IN PARIS, FRANCE
Those who copiously...
Those who wave the flag
Those who inaugurate
Those who believe
Those who believe they believe
Those who when they speak might as well go caw, caw, caw
Those who dress in fancy feathers without a flaw
Those who spare neither tooth nor claw
Those who orate
Those who gunboatate
Those who punctuate,
Those who keep perfect time
Those who polish until whatever it is sparkles and shines
Those who throw out their bellies in their pride
Those who avoid your eyes
Those who are not afraid to take the bull by the balls, when he's dead
Those who've grown bald on the inside of their heads
Those who give their blessings to all the churning masses
Those who distribute the kick in the asses
Those who prop up the dead with their great regret
Those who use bayonet
Those who let their children play with guns
Those who let guns play with their children
Those who float and refuse to ever sink
Those who believe the best of all mankind, though here and there some few may stink
Those whose gigantic wings alone prevent them from superhuman flight
Those whose only dream is sticking pieces of broken bottle on the top of the Great Wall of China at midnight
Those who cover up their faces in wolves-heads when chewing on a lamb chop
Those who make off with the eggs but refuse to take the responsibility for whipping up the omelette
Those who own four thousand eight hundred and ten square yards of Mount Blanc, three hundred of the Eiffel Tower, twenty-five centimeters of chest expansion and what's more, those who are proud of it
Those who suckle at the bosom of a nation
those who do the running, the raiding, and the revenging on our behalf, the whole mob of them, and a lot more besides, who proudly enter the President's Residence, crunching along the gravel road, all pushing and shoving, all hurrying each other along, because there is going to be a great banquet of heads right now and everyone can choose the head that best fits his or her taste.
One head the head of a clay pipe, the other the head of an English Admiral; as a side dish there are heads made out of bombs, the heads of Galliffet, the heads of gentle beasts with bad headaches, Auguste Comte-heads, Rouget de Lisle heads, Saint Theresa-heads, heads made out of heads of headcheese, even heads of feet, heads of men of the cloth, milkmen heads. Some of them, just for a laugh, carried on their shoulders delightful little calf-faces, and these faces were so lovely and so sad-with little sprigs of parsley sticking out of their ears like seaweed sprouting from the reefs deep beneath the seas-that nobody even noticed them.
A mother wearing a dead skull's head smilingly presented her daughter wearing an orphan's head to the venerable old diplomat friend of the family who had on the head of Soleilland.
It was truly deliciously charming and all in such perfect taste that when the President arrived wearing an overstuffed Columbus-egg head everybody went absolutely crazy.
"Actually, the idea was quite simple; the whole trick was in being the first to think of it," announced the President unfolding his napkin; and before the spectacle of so much simplicity and malice the guests could no longer overcome their emotions: through the cardboard crocodile-eyes a fat factory owner let flow a few tears of uncontrollable joy, a slightly smaller industrialist nibbled on the table legs, all the pretty ladies jiggled their tits a bit and the Admiral, carried away by his own enthusiasm, tipped his champagne glass in the wrong direction, broke off the stem in doing so, and died of a ruptured appendix just standing there, feet locked on the arms of his chair, shrieking: "Women and children first"
By strange coincidence, the seafarer's widow-on the advice of her maid-had that very morning concocted a striking war-widow's head, with two long lines of pain running down from either side of the mouth part, and two neat little pockets of grief, touches of gray beneath blue eyes.
Standing on the seat of her chair, she addresses the President, howling at the top of her lungs to demand increases in war-widows' pensions and the right to wear as a brooch, crosswise on her bosom of her evening gown, the deceased's favourite sextant.
Finally, slightly calmer now, she lets her lonely widow's gaze wander over the table, and, spying among the hor d'oeuvres a plate of filets of herring, sobbing, she gobbles down several, one after another, like a machine; then she swallows up the rest, in the memory of the Admiral who "seldom indulged himself during his long lifetime," but who "nevertheless did love them so very much." Interruption: The Minister of Protocol is requesting that everyone stop eating, since the President is about to speak.
The President has arisen, you can see that he's just broken the top of his cranial egg with his knife because he prefers it a bit less warm, only just a modicum less warm...
Now he is speaking and the silence is suddenly such that you can hear the flies in flight and suddenly such that you can hear them flying so distinctly that you can't hear the President speaking anymore which is really quite regrettable because it's specifically about flies he's speaking, about flies and their incontestable usefulness in every area of life and the realm of colonial activities in particular.
"...For without flies, we would be without fly-swatters, without fly-swatters there would be no Governor-General of Algiers, no French Consulate...no insults to revenge, no olive-trees, in fact no more Algeria, which means no more hot spells, Gentlemen, and those bracing heat waves in the desert, Gentlemen, aren't they the very health of the weary traveler, and besides..."
But when the flies become bored they die, and all the stories of past glories, all these statistics of ours fill them with the full weight of sadness, so that first they lower one foot from the ceiling, then the next and then they fall, as flies will do, in our dinner plates...all over our clean white shirt-fronts, dead as the songs say.
"The most noble conquest of man is the horse," the President was announcing, "and were there but one horse left in the entire world, I would want to be him."
The speech is over; and like an overripe orange flung against a wall with all his might by a badly brought-up child, the Marseillaise explodes and the entire audience, dazzled by the stunning brilliance bouncing off the copper band instruments, rises as one to its feet, choked up, drunken, just at the thought of the history of France and that of the illustrious Pontet-Canet.
Everyone is standing, except for the man with the head of Rouget deLisle who takes all this in his stride and who is of the opinion that the performance was well executed indeed and then, gradually, the music dies down and then the next thing you know the mother with the corpse-head has taken advantage of this peaceful moment to push her little orphan-headed daughter toward the President's table.
Flowers in her hand, the child begins her memorized speech: "Monsieur President, Sir..." But her emotions, plus the heat, plus the flies are such that she keels over and falls with her face flat in the flowers, teeth snapped tight as the jaws on a pair of nail-clippers.
The man with the head made out of a truss and the man with the head completely formed from an abscess fling themselves forth, and the little thing is borne up, subjected to an autopsy, and disowned by her mother who discovered on the child's card listing dancing-partners certain poodles of an unspeakable obscenity-wouldn't even dream for a single moment that the one who had amused himself that way was the family's dear old diplomat friend upon whom the father's job depends.
Concealing the paper in her dress, she stabs at her bosom with a stub of white chalk while giving out a loud shriek and her grief is painful to behold for all those who think that this is the genuine article, the actual grief of a mother just deprived of her child.
Delighted to be the center of attention, she lets herself go, she really lets them have it, she moans and groans, singing out: "Where oh where is my little daughter, oh where oh where can she be/who threw grass to the rabbits, and rabbits to the dogs..."
But the President, whose first experience with a lost child this is certainly not, makes a certain practiced gesture with his hand, and the banquet goes on.
And those who had come to peddle coal and wheat peddle coal and wheat and also certain large green islands entirely surrounded by water; lush lands with pneumatic trees and metal pianos exquisitely crafted so that your ears need not be assaulted by the outcries of the natives around the plantations when the good-natured fun-loving colonialists go for target practice after dinner.
With one bird on his shoulder, another inside his pants so he can prepare roast fowl while he waits, sits the oddest duck of all, at whose house later on the poets would go, talking of Michael Angelo.
"This is really," one was saying to another, "I mean really quite a success."
But then, in the glare of a spotlight, the Minister of Protocol is caught in flagrante delecto, eating a plate of chocolate ice-cream with a coffee-spoon.
"That there should be no special spoon for chocolate ice-cream is insane when you stop to think about it," the Governor was saying, "it's unimaginable in fact-after all, the dentist has his drills, the paper its proper scissors, and even red radishes, as opposed to white, have their appropriate radish dish."
But suddenly everyone starts to tremble with fear, because a man wearing a mans head just entered, a man nobody there seems to have invited and who sets down atop the table, in a basket, the head of Louis the Sixteenth.
It's really the horror of horrors: its teeth, the old men and the doors all chatter with fear.
"Were done for, they've done in the locksmith," screamed the burghers of Calais in their shirts all gray as Cap Gris-Nez, as they slid away down the banisters.
The overwhelming terror, the tumult, the feeling of despair, the straw that broke the camel's back, the state of siege and outside, in full-dress uniform, with blackened hands beneath white gloves, the sentry who sees blood gushing forth from the gutters and a bug in his tunic realizes events have taken a turn for the worse and that now it's time to go, while the going's still good.
"I had intended," announces a smiling man, "to bring you the ashes of the royal family, who are rumoured to be buried in the 'Caucasian Vault' somewhere beneath the Rue Pigalle, but those crazy Cassacks who keep weeping and sighing over there, dancing the Kazatsky and buying each other drinks, keep quite a close watch over all the dead men they protect.
"Still, you can't have everything, I'm no Ruy Blas, nor am I Cagliostro, I'm no crystal ball, I'm no mess of coffee grounds. No, I'm not one to keep a collection of prophets' beards in cotton wadding. Certainly, I love an occasional laugh with a few friends, but I'm speaking here for the shut-ins, I monologue for the long-shoremen, I broadcast for the magnificent idiots in the suburbs and it's only by accident that I'm paying a visit to your little world.
"First to say, 'Oh cut the crap! Is as good as dead. But you're all silent-too bad, I was kidding all along.
"Yes, you have a little laughter in your life so if you want, I'll take you on a guided tour into the heart of town but of course I realize that you're a little afraid of traveling, you know what you know, which is to say that the Tower of Pisa is crooked and that vertigo overcomes a man when he leans over for a look. Yes, that applies to you over there on the terraces of those cafe's.
"Still, you'd have a good time for yourself, just like the President when he goes down to inspect a mine, just like Rudolf down at the tavern when he sits around with the local cut-throat, just like it was when you were but a child and they took you to the Municipal Zoo for a look at the great Anteater.
"You'd have been able to see beggars with no skid row, lepers without begging bowls and shirtless men stretched out along the benches, stretched out abbreviatedly, however, in view of the fact that it's illegal.
"You'd have seen men in flophouses making the sign of the cross in exchange for a bed and families with eight children in a 'one-room dwelling' and-if you'd really behaved yourself, you'd have had the opportunity and the privilege of seeing this: The father who arises with a case of shakes, the mother expiring with worry over the last of her babies, the surviving members of the family escaping on the run and taking a blood-covered road to escape the pain.
"You just must see believe me, it's a sight for sore eyes-you just must behold the moment when the Good Shepherd leads his sheep to the slaughterhouse, the moment when the eldest son with a resigned sigh throws in his lot with the junkies, the moment when children bored to tears switch beds in their room, you just absolutely must see the man lying in his bed surrounded by it's bars just as the alarm-clock is preparing itself to go off in his ear.
"Look at him now, listen to that snoring, he's dreaming, he's dreaming he's going on a long journey, dreaming that everything is going smoothly, that he has a reserved seat in a private compartment... but the hand on the clock collides with the light on the train and the awakened man soaks his head in a sink full of cold water if it's winter-or hot water, if it's summer.
"Look at him hurrying along, gulping down his morning coffee, entering the shop for work, except that he's still not awake, the alarm didn't ring loudly enough or the coffee wasn't strong enough, he's still dreaming that a comfy place on the train is waiting for him, except that he leans out a little too far and falls headfirst into a garden, then tumbles straight into a cemetery, awakes and screams like a bloody animal, two fingers are missing, the machine tried to eat him alive but he wasn't hired to dream away the day, was he, and just the way you're thinking now-he got what he deserved.
"You're thinking also that after all a thing like that doesn't happen too often and that one swallow doesn't make a spring or anything, you're logic-king it out that an earth quake in New Guinea can't stop the grapes from growing in the province, much less cheeses from aging or the earth itself from turning.
"But I wasn't asking you to logic; I was asking you to look, to listen, to accustom yourself, so as not to be too surprised when you hear your cue-ball brains breaking open when the elephants come around, looking to take back their ivory.
"Because this half-dead head of yours, the one you keep mostly buried under dead cardboard, these bleached brains behind their amusing pasteboard masks, this head with all it's lines and wrinkles, with all its practiced grimaces-some day with all your detachment you'll shake this head clean off its little connecting link, and as it goes tumbling off, rolling away in the sawdust, you won't even cry out, won't even cry out yes, it's O.K.!; much less no.
"And if it actually isn't your very own, it will be one of your friends' heads, because you know the old tales well enough, with there shepherds and their dogs; no, as far as having a really good, solid head on your shoulders, you needn't be the ones to worry...
"I'm still kidding, of course, but after all, as people say, a butterfly's wings are enough to change the course of human history. A little guncotton instead of surgical cotton in the ear of an ailing King and couldn't the King himself just explode... the Queen rushes to his bedside, but there is no more bedside anymore: there is no more palace anymore. All there is, is in ruins, and draped in mourning. The Queen feels her mind going. To relax her a bit, a stranger with a nice smile gives her a cup of strong coffee. The Queen drinks it, the Queen dies from it, and the servants begin pasting labels on the children's luggage. The man with the nice smile returns, opens the largest trunk, shoves all the little princes inside, snaps the padlock on the trunk, checks the trunk at the baggage-room at the station and walks off rubbing his hands.
"And when I speak, Monsieur le President, Mesdames, Messieurs, of the 'the King, the Queen, and the little Princes,' you understand of course that it's only to disguise things a little, since you can't logically blame regicides who haven't a King around if they make use of their talents with respect to those in the immediate environs, can you?
"Particularly that is with respect to people who think that a handful of rice is more than enough to keep a family of oriental peons going for eons.
"Or with respect to people who snicker at International World's Fairs because a black women is carrying a black child on her back just the way they've been carrying in their white insides a pale-as-death white child for six or seven months.
"Or with respect to 30,000 reasonable people actually supposed to consist of both a body and a soul who march to the rally on the sixth of March in Brussels, military music leading them on, parading before the statue erected to the memory of the self-sacrificing Carrier-Pigeon Soldier and with respect to those who will march tomorrow in places, with names like Brave-the-Dauntless, Rose-the Rosy-Cheeks, or Carpa-the-Jewess before the monument' to the innocent young sailor-teenager who died in the war as a representative symbol of..."
But a coffeepot thrown from some distance by an indignant our-strength-is-in-might advocate lands on the head of the man who was telling a group of people how useful a sense of humour can sometimes be. He falls flat. The Soldier-Pigeon is revenged. The official cardboard-heads trample the head of the smiling man with a rain of kicks, and the young woman, I mean the one over there dipping the tip of her umbrella into the blood for a souvenir, bursts into a tiny tinkle of laughter. The music begins again.
The head of the man is all red now, like an overripe tomato, one eye dangles at the end of a single vein, but all over the demolished face, the remaining living eye-the left one-goes on beaming like a flashlight in the ruins.
"Transport him hence," says the President; and the man, who is outstretched on a stretcher with his face covered by a police-captain's raincoat, marches off horizontally out of the President's Residence, one man in front of him, another close behind.
"You have to have a good laugh now and then, don't you?" he mumbles to the sentry on duty at the door and the sentry watches him being carried away with the same stunned expression you sometimes see a good man adopt when faced with the presence of pure malignancy.
But now, penetrating the shutters before the plate-glass windows of the pharmacie shines a bright star of hope and, like wise men who fail to recognize Christ Jesus when they see him, all the butcher-boys, itinerant bed-linen salesmen and other men of good will observe the star which tells them that the man they saw inside, that the man isn't quite dead yet, that perhaps they are about to nurse him back to health back in there; and so everyone awaits his re-emergence, in the hope of doing him in once and for all.
They wait; and soon, on all fours because of the narrowness of the opening below the shutters, the chief magistrate creeps into the little shop, the druggist helps him to his feet and shows him the supposed dead man, head propped up on a baby-scale.
And the judge demands to know, and the druggist looks at the judge in return, wondering whether this isn't actually the very same joker who threw confetti on that General's coffin a little while ago and who, even earlier than that, planted the time bomb in Napoleon's path.
And then they chit-chat about this and that, about their children, and their various coughs and colds; day breaks and the curtains are drawn back at the President's Residence.
Outside, it's spring, with animals, with flowers, and in the nearby park one can hear the sound of children's laughter; yes, it's spring all right, the needle goes crazy in the compass, the metal flange scampers about beneath the drill- press, and the magnificent dolichocephalic once more falls on her ass on the chaise lounge and plays the fool.
It's getting warmer now. It's spring, with lovers like safety matches rubbing each other a little along their striking surfaces, with adolescent acne cases on the increase; and here we have the sultan's daughter and the mandrake-root reader, here we have pelicans, the most beautiful season of the year is upon us.
The sun shines for all mankind, except of course for prisoners and miners, and also for-
those who scale fish
those who eat the spoiled meat
those who turn out hairpin after hairpin
those who blow glass bottles that others will drink from
those who slice their bread with pocketknives
those who vacation at their workbenches or their desks
those who never quite know what to say
those who milk your cows yet who never drink their milk
those you won't find anesthetized at the dentist's
those who cough out their lungs in the subway
those who down in various holes turn out the pens with which others in the open air will write something to the effect that everything turns out for the best
those whose labours are never over
those who haven't labours
those who water your horses
those who watch their own dogs dying
those whose daily bread is available on a more or less weekly schedule
those who go to church to keep warm in their winter
those whom Swiss Guards send outdoors to keep warm
those who simply rot
those who enjoy the luxury of eating
those who travel beneath your wheels
those who stare at the Seine flowing by
those whom you hire, to who you express your deepest thanks, whom you are charitable toward, whom you deprive, whom you manipulate, whom you step on .whom you crush
those from whom even fingerprints are taken
those whom you order to break ranks at random and shoot down quite methodically
those who go on forced marches beneath the Arch of Triumph
those who don't know how to fall in with the custom of the country or any place on earth
those who never see the sea
those who always smell of fresh linen because they weave the sheets you lie on
those without running water
those whose goal is eternally the blue horizon
those who scatter salt on the snow in all directions in order to collect a ridiculous salary
those whose life expectancy is a lot shorter than yours is
those who die of boredom on Sunday afternoon because they see Monday morning coming and also Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday too and the next Sunday afternoon as well.
REVOLUTIONS- A banquet of various heads in Paris, France
Written by Adrian Alexis a.k.a.-a smiling man.
No-Walls Studio Production
All Rights Reserved