"Otis & Marlena" as written by and Joni Mitchell....
Marlena under Foster Grants
She's undercover from the dawns advance
That girl is travel-drained
And the neon mercury vapor stained
Miami sky
It's red as meat
It's a cheap pink rose
Otis in the driver's seat
Watches the street lights fade away
On louvered blocks in green sea air
In fluorescent fossil yards
Slippers are shuffling into folding chairs
Freckled hands are shuffling cards

They've come for fun and sun
While Muslims stick up Washington

Otis empties out the trunk
On the steps of that celebrated dump
Sleazing by the sea
Bow down to her royal travesty
In her ballrooms heads of state
In her bedrooms rented girls
Always the grand parades of cellulite
Jiggling to her golden pools
Through flock and cupid colonnades
They jiggle into surgery
Hopefully beneath the blade
They dream of golden beauty

They've come for fun and sun
While Muslims stick up Washington

Marlena, white as stretcher sheet
Watches it all from her 10th floor balcony
Like it's her opera box
All those Pagliacci summer frocks
Otis is fiddling with the TV dial
All he gets are cartoons and reruns
She taps her glass with an emery file
Watching three rings in the sun
The golden dive, the fatted flake
And sizzle in the mink oil
It's all a dream
She has awake
Checked into Miami Royal
Where they've come for fun and sun
While Muslims hold up Washington
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on

Lyrics submitted by threearmedman

"Otis and Marlena" as written by Mitchell

Lyrics © Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

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Otis & Marlena song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentDoes anyone know what this song means? I really like it, musically, and I think I like the lyrics too.

    I think Otis & Marlena are husband and wife, on a vacation at a hotel (the Miami Royal?).

    In her ballrooms heads of state--
    In her bedrooms rented girls--

    "her" refers to the hotel. Even though the song is called Otis & Marlena, I think it's really about the hotel.

    The only thing I really don't get is that "while Muslims stick up Washington" line. I'm sure it's significant, and I feel like it must be sarcastic, unless Joni hated Muslims???
    inthisholeon March 17, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe line 'While Muslims stick up Washington' refers to the 1977 Hanafi Siege:

    beingmrkennyon July 01, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt`s a beautiful poem,find your own meaning
    dragon4625on June 03, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI don't think this open to any range of interpretation. There is a definite theme here, one that often runs through Mitchells work, of societies mediocrity and superficiality. In this piece, I think she is describing a cheap vacation scene. Otis and Marleena, a couple of stereotypical retirees 'enjoying' their opulent Miami holiday. They spend their time playing cards with age freckled hands, taking the view on their 10th floor holiday flat under 'meat red' skies. The whole scene is a cheap pink rose. They spend their soulless self-indulgent time while remaining ignorant of more serious situations, (while Muslims stick up washington) . Basically a song about white trash and the american way.
    @nthonyon June 26, 2015   Link

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