On this ingenious tribal drum, with its seat connected to the base by a criss-cross of chromed-steel rods, Gudrun holds my gaze as she sways. She’s very schoolgirl in her black-and-white skirt, red shirt and black tights; she’s such a girl angling her legs like that.
̶ So, why do you say I’m not obvious?
̶ Well, when you’re riding your… machine like that, maybe you are a little obvious.
̶ It’s not a machine, it’s a rocking stool, and it’s me that’s working it.
̶ Yes, I can see that. Well, if you are obvious, keep on rocking like that till you disorder your senses. Then you’ll become a seer. Like Rimbaud. And you won’t be obvious anymore.
̶ Who’s Rimbaud? And what’s a seer?
̶ A seer is someone who can see into the unknown. Rimbaud was a poet, a boy like you.
̶ I’m not a boy.
̶ How do you know?
She stops rocking and pulls up her shirt to reveal her breasts in her bra. She starts rocking again.
̶ He was French, I suppose, this boy Rimbaud?
̶ Yes. Do you speak French?
̶ I do: grand plié, relevé, tendu derrière.
̶ You speak ballet. Why not learn French?
̶ Why should I?
̶ So you can read Rimbaud.
̶ All right. If you want me to, I will.
̶ Good. I’ll send you some books and CDs. Now stop rocking! You’re making me dizzy.
̶ Didn’t you say I had to do it till I lose my senses?
̶ I did, yes. Disorder your senses. Consume the poisons in you and keep only their quintessence.
̶ What’s ‘quintessence’?
̶ It’s what’s left when you burn away everything in you that doesn’t correspond to your own desire.
̶ Then I’ll be able to see into the unknown?
̶ I’ll tell you a secret, Sprague. Since we got this rocking stool last year, I’ve already become a seer. Three times.
̶ Only by rocking?
̶ That’s wonderful, Gudrun. It proves you’ve already been burning your poisons. Now listen, I’m going to recite you a poem by Rimbaud. It’s called Sensation.
̶ In French?
̶ Recite it, then, while I try to become a seer again.
Squeezing her thighs together, she further angles out her legs, squirming as she rotates on the rocking stool. I recite the poem:
Par les soirs bleus d’été, j’irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l’herbe menue:
Rêveur, j’en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.
Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien:
Mais l’amour infini me montera dans l’âme,
Et j’irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, heureux comme avec une femme
The rocking comes to a standstill as Gudrun squeezes her thighs tighter; her head thrown back, through blind eyes she sees into the unknown.
̶ What’s the poem about, Sprague?
̶ It’s about a blue summer night, a night like this, when you set out along the byways in search of tenderness, a tenderness you never had. Rimbaud’s mother was very severe.
̶ Was he very young when he wrote it?
̶ He was exactly your age. Fifteen and a half.
̶ And does he find the tenderness he’s searching for?
̶ He does. He experiences the sensations of tingling skin as he walks through wheat, the dreamy coolness of grass under his feet, the wind blowing through his hair.
̶ But only in his imagination?
̶ Yes. Though he would go on to walk for miles and miles and miles. He’s given up trying to find tenderness in a woman, so he looks for it in Nature instead.
̶ Nature is feminine. But is it enough?
̶ No. Rimbaud died very lonely and bitter.
̶ So why do you want me to read him?
̶ It’s just a hunch I have, an intuition. I think you’d get along very well together.
̶ On a blue summer night?
̶ On a night like this.
̶ You could be right. I did see into the unknown as you recited his poem. Even if I didn’t understand anything.
̶ The music of his words was enough.
̶ The sound of your voice, more like. And the look in your eyes.
̶ The look in my eyes?
̶ Yes. I don’t know how to describe it. I just feel you admire me. And I like how that feels.
̶ Like Rimbaud, walking in the wind?
̶ Yes. But I’m not a vagabond looking for love!
̶ And I hope you never will be.
She stands up and picks up the rocking stool.
̶̶ Look, it’s got a convex base. That’s why it rocks.
̶ Very clever.
̶ I’ve got a bit of homework to do, Sprague.
̶ Go and do it, then.