L'huître by Francis Ponge, translated by Yasmine Seale
The oyster, large as your average pebble, is rougher in aspect, less evenly coloured: luminous, lustreless white. It is a world drawn stubbornly to. Still, it can be opened: cup it in a cloth, and with a chipped, unsharpened knife, go at it with purpose. Keen fingers will cut themselves, crack their nails: it’s coarse work. The blows it comes in for mark its casing with white rings, strange haloes.
Inside a whole world awaits, a mixed bag: under a firmament, in the pure sense, of mother-of-pearl, skies above sink into skies below, forming nothing but a pool, a pouch of off-green ooze, ebbing and flowing to the eye and nose, fringed with blackish lace along the brim.
On the rarest occasions a formula beads in its pearly throat and becomes, at a stroke, someone’s jewel.
Yasmine Seale is a writer and translator from Arabic and French, currently based in Istanbul. Her first book, a new translation of Aladdin, is published this month by W.W. Norton.
Francis Ponge (1899 - 1988) was a French essayist and poet. Influenced by surrealism, he developed a form of prose poem, minutely examining everyday objects. As the poet Robert Bly wrote once, “It is as if the object itself, a stump or an orange, has links with the human psyche, and the unconscious provides material it would not give if asked directly. The unconscious passes into the object and returns.”