Jean-Jacques

Alyssa Ferguson
2 min readMar 15, 2023
Photo by Âħmęđ Ãŝěm on Unsplash

My colleague, Jean-Jacques,
had ideas of reform.
He tempted me —
we went to have a coffee
at a restaurant in Tours,
one of those delightful little
restaurants of France,
where you sit outdoors,
in open view of any chance,
and free to openly decry
the failings of the passers-by. . .

We drank café — that lovely dark
and potent brew, that generates
ideas, plans, and inspirations
of a sordid or exalted kind,
as dragon-slaying, secret incest,
or violent revolution.

Jean-Jacques conceived ideas —
his sister wrote them down,
all across his body in the dark,
taking dictation under cover
of a flannel sheet, translating
inspiration into marks
upon his body, prodigies
of inspiration, which, when morning
waked them, sunshine roused them,
she would read, before he bathed,
aloud, and he, the author, would
transcribe on paper, giving
permanence in daytime to the
prodigy he birthed at night.

Then they would bathe together
and wash it all off.

“But why,” I asked, when he showed me
his portfolio, “does she not simply
write it down on paper,
and save a step, or rather two?”
“Il s’agit du corps,” he said,
“et de sa partie dans le mensonge.”

I took his papers with me to review,
inspired by coffee and his eloquence:
a slender envelope of radical
subversion, whose fiery inspiration
made it grow warm under my arm
where my elbow pinched it.
At the hotel, I set it on my table,
and drank a glass of Grand Marnier,
and went to bed. In the morning,
none of it remained but a pile
of ashes on the table.

“That was a copy, yes?” I said
to him, later. “Yes, the only one,”
he said. “The original is in the drain.”

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Alyssa Ferguson

Born and raised in a literary household, I write to clarify my own questions.