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  • Étienne De Fay, and: Old Deaf Joke
  • John Lee Clark (bio)

Étienne De Fay


He got a little famous once

How it happened was the monks at Saint-Jean d’Amiens Abbey got tired of their old building

And who else but their clever mute artist should draw up the plans and take charge of its reconstruction

So the man who had learned at the abbey writing reading numbers geometry mechanics drawing architecture history holy and profane especially of France got busy

He went to the quarry with Brother Claude and Père Postel and squinted in the sun and pointed here and there

After twelve years of drawing and squinting in the sun and explaining himself very well to the workmen the abbey sparkled

Magnificent magnificent they all said the most beautiful house in the town

A memorable day was when Père Postel wrote in his diary March the eighth in the year of Our Lord seventeen hundred eighteen the Bishop of Amiens graced us with a visit

He wanted to see Monsieur de Fay our deaf mute boarder to witness himself all the good things he had heard about him and after seeing his talent and capabilities he ought to say that we had a true miracle among us

After smiling and nodding and bowing and explaining himself very well Étienne de Fay hurried back to draw up the month’s lists of things he would buy at market for the brothers

And always there were deaf children under his charge all of whom learned everything and to explain themselves very well [End Page 124]

One of the pupils was Azy d’Etavigny and he stayed with his master for eight years

But then his father heard of the oralist Pereire that he could make the mute speak

The oralist Pereire said yes yes your poor stricken son shall be a beneficiary of my secret method and he shall be famous in all the land

Only the deaf pupils remembered their master and told their deaf friends about him and for one hundred fifty years his French name was buried inside the house he built and he was known only as old deaf mute there Amiens [End Page 125]

Old Deaf Joke

A Russian and a Cuban and an American were on a train

It quickly came to pass that the Russian took out a bottle of vodka and after a few swigs he tossed it out the window

The other two men exclaimed why throw still have vodka good waste why

The Russian opened his fur coat and showed them rows and rows of bottles and he said there Russia vodka plenty

The two men said oh and settled back in their seats

After a while the Cuban took out a cigar and after a few puffs he tossed it out the window

The other two men exclaimed why throw still have left good cigar waste why

The Cuban opened his suit and showed them rows and rows of cigars and he said there Cuba cigars plenty

The two men said oh and settled back in their seats

After a while a young man came whistling into the car from the next one

The American grabbed him by the collar and belt and tossed him out the window

The other two men exclaimed why throw still young good man waste why

The American made an expansive sweep with his hands and said here America hearing people plenty

The two other men said oh and settled back in their seats [End Page 126]

John Lee Clark

john lee clark was named a finalist for this year’s Split This Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism in recognition of his work on translating ASL poetry into English and advocating for poets with disabilities. His latest book is Where I Stand, a collection of essays, and he is also the editor of the anthologies Deaf American Poetry and Deaf Lit Extravaganza. His poetry appears in many publications, including Apogee, Better, Pif, Poetry, and the Seneca Review. He lives in Hopkins, Minnesota.



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