"This Way Out" — Carmine Starnino's ode to Park Ex

Post date: May 11, 2016 2:41:28 PM


by Carmine Starnino, 2009 [book info]

Corkscrew staircases, triplexes, satellite

dishes. Such riches as oranges -- buck-fifty

a pound -- piled on slates, under awnings,

and south of rue Ogilvy's stretch

of family-run sweet-shops and delis:

Pêcherie Mairmais, where, head to tail,

cod cool on crushed ice. A good price.

It suits me down to the ground, this place

of sodium-lit nowhereness between

Jean-Talon and St. Roch. Its eighteen-

nineteenths of a toehold on the world.

Flattops beside flattops, planted

in acres of concrete -- ungentrified

Eden at the brink of the sticks: Parc Ex,

God said, and up sprang sidestreets of shoebox

flats (plus rats), chain-link fences, plain-

penny bricks, and paint-splashed garages.

After that, rust-odoured alleys

where balding towels and pink panties

drip dry together like arranged marriages.

Then Bengali protest posters

and weekend cricket until rain stops play.

Next day, the big-watt rap of double-

parked cars, subfusc bars, sari-clad girls

playing hula hoop, and 2 + 2 = 5

sprayed in red by some effin'

idiot on the hoof. By week's end,

God called forth empty produce boxes

stacked outside Marché SPG,

and me dashing out the Steve's, low on milk.

God saw it was good: our fourth floor

bolt-hole with a crow's-nest view,

cigarette reek rising from below,

my paper heisted every morning,

and muezzin calls from speakers

next door. There's more: the beslippered

Greek men in wife-beaters

like off-broadway Brandos, the Syrian

barbershop brothers in all-weather

flipflops, the Dollarama shopping sprees

paid out in small change, the leaves

that rallied into piles and fought

the wind to a standstill, the spice smells,

the tea-coloured strays, the take-home Bombay,

and the half-chugged bottles of plonk

and beer I saw clear an open window.

De Liège in the morning splodged

with crash landings, brown interbled

with the dregs of lives close-quartered

in this burg, this case study in eyesores,

this last word in slumlords, this warren

of walk-ups where the wallpaper's

forever airing out its smell. Hell

or fresh start: a room, a roof, a wage.

And everyone too tired to hold out

for better. The price paid for a new story

of creation: tatted up Sikhs,

bicycling knife-sharpeners, and Bollywood actors,

just off the boat. We are counted

one by one into this dead end,

where the bandwidth's slow and we speak

not speech but yeses and nos that add up

to a scoop of that, a pound of this. What bliss.