parc jarry, post storm

We enjoy compiling the slender catalogue of our city’s modesty.
–Lisa Robertson

The vast and bumpy green of the urban expanse is broken by a Maple. Silver, one would guess from the seat of one’s bicycle. Urban appears in description after description of parc Jarry, as if wishing to transform the suburban before our very eyes. But the parc seems to know itself, or at least what it isn’t. What makes the leap from suburban to urban? The congo drums, the number of couples lying on the ground making out? Is it scope? Scale of trees? Lack of design, or simply a matter of description? There is no wrought iron here, none of Olmstead’s curved paths leading to and from the fountain, which is a kind of question mark at the center of the scene. There are no bridges that elevate much more than footpaths, and one is always disturbed by the tags and bar codes dangling from the tree’s branches, the black netting sticking out from the earth’s seam.
On this day several women in hijabs, their sons (or grandsons) appearing to describe the fountain for them. What translation, one wonders? To what end? The gestures are punctuated with plastic figures, Hot Wheels ride the sky above their heads. The women (grandmothers), lean in from their stone perches calmly, eyes on the future. Perhaps they are aware of the several young women flagrantly reading magazines on a blanket, families with toddlers precarious and flighty as kites.

There is no trace of the visit from Pope John Paul II, no Jehovah’s Witnesses here today, not the sound of the Canadian Open, no crack of bat, not the echo of 70,000 plates being hand from one hand to another–not a clink–for no doubt those plates would have been paper, flimsy, and left smears of mustard and Ketchup on the grass.

This length, next to the traffic on boulevard Saint Laurent is noisy; traffic funneling toward Jean Talon. The parc prickles as the wheels of the bicycle traverses its lawn. An incline at the southern end fails to keep the energy from spilling over into the housing complex. The eye moves longingly and ends up back at the fountain. The parc has been home to the Montreal Expos who played their last game their on September 25, 1976, one learns, and after the Pope’s visit it was re-named for him, but the name didn’t stick, and by 1987 it was called Jarry again.

Space is never settled until it realizes its own potential. Or perhaps, it is simply never settled.

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