ceremonies

by uzwi

Though on a good night you could still hear the breathy whisper of ten thousand voices wash across the roofs of Montrouge like a kind of invisible firework, the arena by then was really little more than a great big outdoor circus, & all the old burnings and quarterings had given place to history pageants, drumming, amateur choirs, acrobatics, trapeze acts &c. The New Men liked exotic animals. They did not seem to execute their political opponents–or each other–in public, though some of the aerial acts looked like murder. Every night there was a big, stupid lizard or a megatherium brought in to blink harmlessly & even a bit sadly up at the crowd until they had convinced themselves of its rapacity. & there were more fireworks than ever: to a blast of maroons full of magnesium & a broad falling curtain of cerium rain, the clowns would erupt bounding & cartwheeling into the circular sandy space–jumping up, falling down, building unsteady pyramids, standing nine or ten on each other’s shoulders, active & erratic as grasshoppers in the sun, while the massed bands played the popular music of a decade or two ago. They fought, with rubber knives and whitewash. They wore huge shoes. Everyone loved them. [From “The Dancer from the Dance”, 1983.]