Wednesday, July 2, 2008

St Martin of the Canal

Saint Martin's wide patronship - he supposedly looks over tailors, beggars, innkeepers, the city of Mainz (not recommended), purveyors of wine, sausage manufacturers, also geese, and horses - cannot prevent one from suspecting that his non-martyrdom - he wasn't stoned, boiled, eaten, or nailed to a cross - makes his miracles suspicious, and even obscure. On the canal in the Xéme arrondissement in Paris which is named after him, I saw a black man in rags admire a brown-eyed woman in a red bondage dress as she crossed the footbridge which rises above the water and lands perfectly on the opposite bank. "Elle est belle," he said, the black man in rags, his bare feet grey with dust, while the girl whose lively step was as much a delight as the vivid scrape scrape of her heel along the bridge's wooden planks went brown-eyed and busily along, humming, I'm sure, a Jacques Dutronc song. The lime trees columned along the canal bank were approximately sixty feet high that morning as the black man sang "elle est belle elle est belle" to the scrapes of the woman's shoes. Beneath massed green branches the tramp sang out, then scratched his head with the neck of his plastic wine bottle, grimacing and sighing as the scrape scrape of the neck soothed the itch, an inch of red sloshing about at the bottom. "Elle est belle, comme une poubelle," he sang. Then, gaining confidence, he sang it again, "Elle est belle, belle, comme une poubelle," scraping all the itch away. She is beautiful, like a dustbin. Meanwhile, the woman went into a distance packed with French poubelles, fat and green with hungry yellow mouths ajar, out of which the sure slow sound of fermenting rubbish climbed. I saw other sights too - A red man galloping beneath a plastic tree. Canals slowly filling with tap water and red wine. A crow standing at traffic lights, saying despicable, outrageous things. The black man in a tattered suit slowly turning grey as a plastic bag in lime-tree dust.

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