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Succès Fou 

by Eric Darton 

 

(for Thomas Isidore Nöel Sankara)

 

And here, let us be clear about what we really mean, that the day we took the  presidential palace, we knew nothing except how to be incorruptible. We disabled the  air conditioner – for how could we allow ourselves to exchange atmospheres while the  people sweltered? We escorted the monetarists to the tarmac, turbines revving. We  thanked them for their concern, their munificent offers, which we respectfully declined  in perpetuity. We jeeped into the provinces to see the vaccination commando with our  own eyes, to lay the cinderblock cornerstone of the thousandth school, offer prayers of  thanks for the fifteenth village child born alive. We hit the airwaves, arguing the  cessation of excisions, pour la santé, and in three years even Mère Bintou at ninety is  convinced and lays down her razor blade. 

But there were, it pains me to say, a few, a handful, who found the new policies  naïve and disagreeable, who were reluctant after such a struggle to live without  privilege, who resented the delays in electrifying their hometowns, who found  degrading – and inexplicable – this lack of air conditioning, the injunction against  promiscuous motorcades and who saw fit – these rogues – to burst through the door  without benefit of scheduling a plenary and favor me with their ballistic displeasure,  and it was at this moment – seeing first their faces, then their guns – before ditch, before  vultures, before the popular uprising forced them to dig me a proper grave with a  mausoleum on top and build my namesake dam (which the monetarists praised) and  bridges, and stop work once a year for the festival of the revolution when the women  march and the men go to market and prepare meals – that I remembered:  

A dusky sky and impossibly tall buildings of white brick and sand-colored  masonry set along wide boulevards. And from each roof-terrace spills a garden, lush as  the presidential gardens we fought through, fountains of vegetation overawing the street, and suddenly in this great park all is night and clouds such as I never saw in all  my life rush over my bicycle in the lamplight and I look down and find I have grown  fourteen million legs and I steer with fourteen million vaccinated arms, and we – seven  million strong with not one excision among us – are traveling together. How do I know we  are all here? But in the dark I sense it. To believe such things is crazy, non?

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                          * * * * * 

Eric Darton is author of Free City, a novel, and Divided We Stand, a cultural history of the World Trade Center. He teaches in the Historical and Sustainable Architecture Studies program of the Department of Art History, New York University, and the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College.