For Paris, Read New Orleans January 23, 2010Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
I love the first part of this, which puts me immediately in mind of the peculiar charm of our own dingy city. If cleanliness is next to godliness then god only knows in which circle of hell New Orleans resides, but like the character who laughs at her comment on the Seine, clean is not something we particularly aspire to or would find complimentary. The ant-busy cities of the Midwest where I spent some years are typically as clean as the restrooms of their numberless chain restaurants, just as my own lawn was kept in good repair and I cleared the snow off my walks because frankly what the hell else was there to do there?
I would rather be New Orleans, be in the end (as the poem says) full of shit but marvelous anyway.
By Elizabeth Scanlon, from Ploughshares by way of Poetry Daily. Scanlon is an associate editor of The American Poetry Review but does not have a book. Some Googling brought up a half dozen wonderful poems, which I will get to some day in Odd Words. But for now, we’ll at least have Paris.
There’s a preponderance of dog shit in Paris
but no one says so, attracted to its other, finer qualities.
If people were stepping in that much crap in Detroit
you’d never hear the end of it. Motown my ass, they’d say,
without so much as a backward glance at the Miracles, the Temptations.
They might remember Ike & Tina since he beat the shit out of her,
but they’d be wrong. They were from Tennessee.
What you get for the price of Paris is a certain forgiveness,
a willingness to overlook the less scenic. I don’t know why.
I told a French guy once that I loved how clean and green the Seine looked;
he laughed till he almost puked. Because I was wrong, of course,
but also because cleanliness wasn’t his idea of a compliment.
So let’s be Paris. I’ll be blind to your porn habit
and you’ll elide the edges of my idiot rage.
We’ll be full of shit but marvelous anyway,
and the young will flock to us
as an eternal symbol of romance.