michaux - yet more changes

By dint of so much suffering, I lost the limits to my body and spilled inexorably out of myself.

I was all things; ants above all, in an endless file, industrious yet hesitant. It was a crazy commotion. It demanded my full concentration. I quickly realised that I wasn’t only ants, but their path too. However crumbly and dusty it was, it turned hard and the pain was excruciating. I expected it to explode into the air at any moment. But it held together.

I rested as best I could on another, gentler part of myself. It was a forest gently stirred by the wind. But a storm came, and to resist the mounting winds the roots of the trees bore into me, but that’s nothing, then they penetrated me so deeply it was worse than death.

With a sudden tumbling of earth a beach entered into me, a beach of pebbles. It started to ruminate inside me and it called to the sea, the sea.

I often turned into a boa constrictor and, while a little put out by the elongation, got ready to go to sleep, or else I was a bison and I got ready to graze, but before long a typhoon came from my shoulder, the boats were tossed into the air, the steamers wondered would they ever make it back to port, distress signals were all you could hear.

I regretted no longer being a boa constrictor or bison. It wasn’t long before I had to shrink down enough to fit into a saucer. The changes were always abrupt, everything had to be done from scratch, and it wasn’t worth it, it was only going to last a few moments and yet I had to get used to it, and always these abrupt changes. Going from a rhombohedron to a truncated pyramid isn’t so bad, but going from a truncated pyramid to a whale is excruciating; straight away you have to know how to dive and breathe and the water is cold and you find yourself face to face with the whalers, but as soon as I saw a human, I’d run away. But as it happened I suddenly turned into a whaler, so I had an even greater adjustment to make. At length I succeeded in catching up with the whale, I swiftly fired the sharp, solid harpoon (after having had the rope fastened and checked), it penetrated deep into the flesh, causing a huge wound. Then I realised I had turned back into the whale, it was another chance to suffer, and I can’t get used to suffering.

After rushing madly about, I perished, then turned back into a boat, and believe me, when I’m a boat, I take on water all over the place, and when things get really bad, then it’s decided, I become the captain, I try to maintain a steely composure, but I despair, and if someone manages to save us in spite of everything, I turn into the cable and the cable snaps and if a lifeboat is wrecked, then I’m its sinking planks, and having become an echinoderm, it lasted no more than a second, for, at a loss amidst foes of whom I knew nothing, they took me straight away and ate me alive, with such white and ferocious eyes as one only encounters underwater, under the salty waters of the sea that make your wounds sting. Ah! Who’ll leave me alone even for a moment? But no, if I don’t move, I’ll rot on the spot, and if I move, it is to endure the blows of my foes. I don’t dare move a muscle. I instantly disintegrate and become part of a baroque conglomerate marred by an equilibrium that shows itself only too soon and too clearly.

Whenever I turned into an animal, I’d ultimately succeed in adapting, because it always entails the same behaviour, the same principle of action and reaction, but I’m things as well (and things too I can handle), but I’m also such arbitrary conglomerates and intangible entities. What about when I turn into lightning! That’s when I really need to get moving, I who always dawdle and can’t make decisions.

Ah! If I could just die once and for all. But no, I’m always good for a new life, even though I keep screwing up and leading it to its loss.

No matter, I instantly receive another with which to demonstrate my blatant, prodigious incompetence.

Always and forever.

There are so many animals, plants and minerals. And I’ve already been all of them so many times. But experience is no use. Becoming ammonium chloride for the thirty-second time, I still tend to behave a little like arsenic, and, become a dog again, my night-bird ways still shine through.

Only rarely do I see something without having the peculiar feeling of … Ah yes, I was once THAT … I don’t exactly remember, but I sense it. That’s why I love illustrated encyclopaedias so much. I derive such satisfaction leafing through them, for they contain photos of a number of things I’ve not yet been. It’s such a relief, it’s delightful. I say to myself: “I could have been that as well, and that, and I’ve been spared that.” I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh! Peace!