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Wednesday, 5 October 2011



Paris sous la pluie
: photo by Ron Reiring, 1 December 1989

The rain falls like dirty string
on the tomb
of the human race

The girl with the red scarf
and the sassy face throws
her flowers on the wet leaves

Her name is Marie
I met her last Tuesday
on the Métro

You know how it is in the springtime
A man just can't say no
especially when he is sitting in the seat

reserved for those who have been mutilated in the war

from 35, 1976

Station Cluny -- La Sorbonne de la ligne 10 du métro de Paris, France. Le tunnel en direction d'Odéon, avec le raccordement central vers la ligne 4:
photo by Clicsouris, January 2010

Station Victor Hugo de la ligne 2 du métro de Paris, France. Les quais de l'ancienne station en courbe abandonnée: photo by Clicsouris, November 2008

Plan, métro parisienne, c. 1967
: collection Gérard Mory, from Grégoire Thonnat: Petite histoire de Ticket de métro parisienne, 2011

Attention ces baquettes sont réservés par priorité aux mutilés de guerre
: inscription dans le Métro: photo by Paul Munhoven, March 2008




Rains in Paris "on the tomb/ of the human race," first rains here too, Occupy Wall Street has moved to Occupy the NYC Subway. . .


light coming into clouds above shadowed
ridge, rain drops falling from branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

sketch in pen on wove paper
watermarked, probably

what about this “is,” which
is not so, named “is”

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
whiteness of gull standing on sandspit

aditya said...

All I can say is that this is a fucking good poem.

Nin Andrews said...

I agree . . . . Great.

TC said...

Many thanks, my fellow poet-humans.

Plenty big rains over here too, Steve. For one hour between 2 and 3 a.m. two nights ago it was pure blinding monsoon intensity.

This wee lyric half-remembers certain rainy days and nights beneath and (barely) above ground in Paris in the earlyish nineteen-sixties.

The Métro trains had those seats reserved for the war injured, but already by that time the war injured had pretty much got over it (the bumps and bruises of the race to surrender). Of course there had been Dien Bien Phu, but in the end that was free of survivors. This movie was playing in Paris around then, The 500, dramatizing the heroic dying colonialist saga of the last forlorn hope at Dien Dien Phu. Anyhow, all of this is just a feeble attempt at self-justification for occupying that reserved seat, now and then, when the train was full, and despite the glares of the occasional patriotic fellow traveler, falling harmlessly upon the bowed lovelorn shaggy head.

(By the way, I like the way the "M" has been effaced from "Mutilée" on the glass, creating an entirely different sort of, shall we call it, semiotic event -- hinting of the truth in the idea that, whether it mutilates them or not, war, being concerned above all else with its own sustenance, always uses its victims, without whom it could not do.)

ACravan said...

This has been haunting me since yesterday. It's not just the quality of the writing and images, but that woke up in me key sleeping Paris and other memories and pictures. Chief among those many thoughts is the word "mutiles," which first planted itself in my head when I was very young and taken to Paris by my parents for the first time and I saw it in the Metro. Prior to that, I had never given the concept any thought. Then we visited Spain and saw similar legends on signs that referred back to the Spanish Civil War. We also saw mendicants who had been wounded in that conflict. Anyway, once implanted, the thought, which becomes kind of a quiet obsession (or at least a permanent mental reference) never leaves you. Curtis

TC said...

It's touching to think of a seat being reserved for ghosts. It's a bit like reserving a seat for Confederate War survivors.

In fact, and on that note (historical forms of claustrophobia, post romance, sans Zazie dans le Métro), I ride the city buses here o'nights, an experience in abjection that sometimes makes it seem every seat has been reserved for the mutilated. Though now and then a younger person or two will be aboard, in all the glory of an as yet unmutilated nonadulthood.

There are seats -- well, actually little perch-like affairs, on some models -- in a small cramped cubicle behind the driver's box, where seniors and mildly-disableds are meant to be accommodated.

Then further down the aisle are the clampon-portals for up to three wheelchairs. These are frequently in use. Every time someone in a wheel chair gets on or off the bus, the driver must stop the vehicle, lower the rear lading platform, proceed to the back, assist the person on or off the bus... the operation usually takes c. 5 minutes.

There is one very ancient woman -- Confederate War perhaps not too much of an exaggeration -- who is very dotty, and rides the buses for entertainment. When her wheel chair is spotted at a stop, veteran passengers groan inwardly.

Last week I happened to be on a bus she boarded.

Getting her on board took well over the standard 5 mins. As per her normal routine, while being on-loaded she several times changed her mind and asked to get off, then back on...all the while cackling happily, delirious with joy.

Returning to the front, the driver called back to her, "What stop do you want, lady with the chair?"

"Oh, I don't care," she said happily.

Driver again stops bus.

"Lady, you got to tell me where you want to go, so I know where to get you off."

"Oh, it doesn't matter. I'm just going for a ride!" she replied euphorically.

Two stops later she wanted off, and...

TC said...

(I'm beginning to fear this post may be afflicted with bad rain magic. Every time I look at it, another downpour starts. And the radio weather oracle's now interrupted by a news alert about a mumps outbreak on campus. A forest of mumps has been spotted marching in this direction from Birnam Wood.)



Look at all we commuters miss, driving around in our cars -- beware, in any case, that squadron of mumps heading your way from Berkeley (sic) Wood.