Vincent PLACOLY – Martinique

Vincent Placoly (1946-1992), after having studied at Lycee Louis-Le-Grand in Paris, returned to Martinique. Writer and political activist in Martinique, he bases his beliefs on blackness and Creole. He defended the American anchorage of Martinique and Caribbean.
Writings (in French) : ’La vie et la mort de Marcel Gonstran’ Éd. Denoël 1971, reprint Éd. Passage(s) 2016 ; ’L’eau-de-mort guildive’ Denoël 1973 ; ’Dessalines ou la passion de l’indépendance’, La Havane, Ediciones casa de las Americas 1983 ; ’Frères volcans : chronique de l’abolition de l’esclavage’ Éd. la Brèche 1983 ; ’Don Juan : comédie en 3 actes’ Éd. Hatier-Antilles-Agence de coopération culturelle et technique 1984 ; ’Dessalines, Case-Pilote, l’Autre mer’ 1994 ; ’Une journée torride’ Éd. La Brêche 1991 (Prix Frantz Fanon)

Dreamer and Fisherman

[published in RN06 Caribbean in September 1992, unpublished writing in French translated by John Taylor]
At five o’ clock on the every day, a man named Jesu-Christiu sat up in bed, searched mechanically in the kangaroo pouch of his parka which he used for pyjamas, took out a joint which he lit and started smoking, all the while dreaming away… Outside, the weather was grey, gloomy and ominous. People were walking about poorly dressed, not to say in rags. However, Jesu-Christiu, chewing away at his cannabis, couldn’t help thinking there was anything more beautiful than the creation of the world, it having been accomplished by a master hand. He hadn’t stolen his dreamer’s nickname. Show him a trash can and he’d see it as a table set for the poor. If he came across a grey duck, which had come down and was lying in the gutter, weak and exhausted by the surrounding atmospheric pollution, he’d pick it up, nurse it, stuff it with stale bread soaked in dog food, and see it flying off again livelier and more full of beans than if the poor mite had just fallen out its mother’s nest. He ended up becoming a public figure and earning himself a reputation. He was even asked to cure the blind and paralytics…
After finishing his joint, he got up, remained a while with his legs bent and his hands on his knees, and let out a long diligent fart, so that all the wind congesting his bowels was removed to the last bubble. He called this his morning hygiene. “Purify your body,” he loved to repeat at random, “before aspiring to save your soul”. This sort of utterance, coming from the ragman’s son, surprised the neighbors, but attracted him a larger and larger audience every day.
After standing completely upright on his two legs, he stretched himself, felt a terrible pain in his loins and swore, “This rheumatism is bloody torture! I’m not yet thirty years old and here I am stiffer than poor Job… Anyone would think I carried the world on my back…”
Walking nevertheless steadily, he crossed the room and gave a painful kick in the ribs to the person sleeping flopped down like a hippopotamus on the poor bed nearby. “Get up, fat lump! You’re going to make us miss the six thirty bus…”
The big heap was called Simon Kaplan. He had only two basic qualities. The first his ability to smash the face of anyone he wanted. The other his excellence at fly-fishing, spinning, trolling, and cast-netting. For this reason, they’d nicknamed him Simon-the- fisherman.

“I’ve already told you a hundred times,” Simon yelled getting up forcefully, “not to shoot me like that so early in the morning. You could, for example, sing hymns into my lug-hole, for God’s fucking sake!”
“What did you call me?”
“Excuse me it’s a nickname that comes to mind automatically when I look at you.”
“If you think I didn’t notice what time you came in last night… You could just as easily have finished your debauched night at the Madeleine. Don’t try to lie, I know everything.
“The pigs came to close the place down around three o’ clock… And then shit! I ain’t married and I ain’t taken no vow of chastely as far as I know.”
“We’ll have to talk about that some other time.”
“But just look at yourself, Dreamer… You’ve never touched a woman, have you? So you don’t know what ecstasy is like…? When I think that I know a whole load of women who’d drop their pimp to follow you on their knees… But which world are you living in, Dreamer?…
“Precisely because they are women, Fisherman, their flesh doesn’t interest me. And I’ve told you umpteen times that it’s a base matter…
“To others, Dreamer! Keep your sermonizing for those who are disgusted with life. I won’t have anything to do with it. Dreamer… Aren’t you feeling hungry? I’m going prepare some grub. I’m famished.  

An old sideboard they must have picked upon a rubbish dump (a foot and several drawers were missing) was ending its days in a corner of the room. It really wasn’t much to look at and the scint ragman wouldn’t have given a penny for it. But curiously enough, the antique piece of furniture was always packed with the freshest, for the most part succulent, food. There was never a shortage of fresh bread and young wine. Simon was accustomed to saying that their hovel exhaled (a word he must have heard somewhere) the bakery and the off-licence.

“You’ll have to tell me how you do it, Dreamer. You freely distribute food to all the underworld in the district and there’s still always good grub in this fucking joint. You’ll have to watch it, Dreamer; today the shittiest shops are rigged out with wierd cameras. You can get nabbed for a crate of grapes, you get beaten up by security thugs and you end up in the nick treated like a swine. Then it’s bye bye the street, bye bye life… It’s no longer how it used to be; the capitalists don’t joke any more; you pinch a penny from their hoard under the matress, and there they are screaming how outrageous it is and getting out the big guns.”
“The wealth of the wealthy doesn’t belong to them”
“I find you weird these days. You wouldn’t have turned communist by any chance? Listen, Dreamer, we’ll follow you wherever you like, OK? But you must give us any of that political stuff, OK? First of all, I can’t understand a word of it, and then it’s never been any of our business.
“Everything can be learned, Fisherman, everything can be learned… You’ll see it’s no more difficult than pinching a leg of mutton from Chine’s… Trust in me, we’ll find allies. They’re old hands at it, they’ve been dabbling in it for centuries.
“We agreed that no one should be recruited without saying something about it first. We’ve always worked like that. You’re the boss, alright, but we’ve also got our opinion when it comes to admitting someone new in the band.”
“Times are changing, Simon, times are changing.”
“You’re a mystery, Dreamer, for God’s fucking sake, you’re a mystery incarnate.”

The bus they were in was crossing the town, the south suburbs, the outskirts, the centre and the La Croix terminus. Everyone knewn Jesu-Chritiu. The women, who he loved to chat with, all discovered a little bit of something or other in their shopping baskets after he’d gone. Mostly fish, because he didn’t eat meat, to Simon, his closest companion’s detriment, who, paradoxically enough, loathed sea food. As for the children. He asked them news about school, if their marks were good (which was rare).when suddenly the coin which had appeared in his hand was slipped into the schoolboy’s pocket, to but sweets. The men’s opinion towards him was more divided. Some of them considered him an outright crook who sponged off everybody to keep the band of hooligans which he used to do his little jobs. Others started the rumor that he was really a mystic, endowed with incredible powers. The rest of them remained undecided, they were waiting to see.
Meanwhile, the Dreamer looked absent-mindedly at the town spreading oot before him: its buildings being perpetually erected and demolished, its avenues and streets dug up all year round, the crowd of motley, soulless, bewildered passers-by, its pretentious shops into which people flocked as if into temples, this frensy with building still further, still higher, on sand, reminded him of a distant town his father often used to talk to him about when he was a child, and whose name still echoed in his mind in terms of iron, steel, concrete, metal trusses and fire, Babylon.
But his eyes (which it seemed fascinated so many women), saw something else, while the bus rumbled up the boulevard: the gently undulating green hills covered with peacefully grazing flocks, the females’ udders bursting with milk, huge orchards in which the buches of fruit, thick like the breasts of a mature woman, ripened under the lukewarm glow of the sun, fishes in the sea, birds in the sky…

“Dreamer, we’ve arrived.”

As Simon and himself had got on through the back door, Jesu-Christiu went to pay the bus driver, someone called Elie Osée, for them both. At the same time as the two tickets, the latter discretely slipped a small piece of folded paper into his hand.
Jesu-Christiu became aware of what was written on it as they were going down the two steps to get off the vehicle. As soon as he had his feet on the ground, he turned around to ask Elie Osée:

“Is it serious?”  

But the automatic closing pneumatic doors had already shut.
Vincent Placoly