Black rizebury W

The Providence landscape is dominated by a ridge along the east side of downtown, above the converging streams to the west, flowing into Narragansett Bay, and the Seekonk River to the east (where Roger Williams landed his canoe, & was welcomed by the Narragansetts).

Quizzical Bluejay is leading Henry into a kind of literary vortex, what he calls a "black rizebury W", as they trace a geographical "W" in their zigzag walk along that East Side ridge, dominated by Prospect Terrace and the grave of Williams.  They're going deeper into the "local" than Henry realizes : beyond the fairly superficial sketch of RI history presented in previous section.  They are spiraling ultra-local - into the neighborhood politics of the Benefit St. area adjacent to the Terrace : where during the 1960s the pressure of re-development, historical preservation and gentrification pushed some of the established African-American families to go on the defense in order to keep their homes.  (I, the Henry Henry, explored some of this micro-history during the 1980s, as part of an oral history project for library school.)  There are literary undercurrents and subtexts here which "Henry" does not fathom.

Penny, Lincoln penny, Penelope... W...

You might say that the intricate tattoos which Henry first glimpsed on Bluejay's arm are now being imprinted, traced on a geomantic scale, along the East Side ridge : a "zigshag W".

Alfred Pinderhughes was a longtime U.S. Postal Service employee, Hope High School graduate, and member of the African-American community in the Benefit St. area for many years. An amateur historian, Mr. Pinderhughes kept voluminous records and scrapbooks of family and neighborhood lore, which he shared with Henry during their "oral history" conversations.


Orion was hidden by the vague light of a moon 
already almost down by then, when they set off. 
Only a rainbow ring remained, fuzzy and soft
on the southwest horizon, over the humped schooner

of the hillside.  Henry stared formulaicly toward 
his – [an interdiction is addressed to the hero]. 
You sho you wan' wander to the rooty sepulchre 
Henrah?  We might get a lil bored.

How come, Bluejay?  Look at all this history! 
The slope peppered with saltbox sea-chandeliered
colonial dimensions!  How they persevered
all this beauty – and we get to live here, Bluejay!

Okay man, whatever you say. . . [an undertone. 
One member of a family either lacks something
or desires to have something.]  Juss one thing 
you oughta know. .. [His voice dims down.]

They arrived at the ornate crest of level Benefit Street. 
Freshly painted 200-year-old domestic blissboats 
lined up at the velveteen dock of curbside – lamplights 
shedding soft moisture aglow, paralleled to a point

that vanished in a mysterious romantic nocturne. 
Henry was about to step off the pavement, when 
– with a grin – Bluejay said:  Look again, Hen
He glanced right – and the year was 1952 – in June!

Muh man, you juss been born – again!  Hen 
heard him whisper.  Then slipped – was spun 
around – four quarter-turns (plus one) – and 
landed in a little kayak in the road!  Then

saw – the street was – doing an Afreecan-can. 
[The hero is married and ascends to the throne.] 
All he could say was where's Pushkin?
As the boat bebopped – into a violet cavern.

This is what it used to be in the future,
Bluejay was saying – before they preserved it 
for the past, see – it was a neighborhood
where I grewed up – an Penny Williams, sure –

an Mrs. Williams – Mr. Pinderhughes –
he like a pivot of all that history that gone 
underground – before that cockroach con 
them outa they houses – all ‘cept those two –

they hung on, hung on – an they still there, 
an gonna be to kingdom come, I b'lieve.
The boat was cyculating an ossawaweave 
now – quatrefoiling, horizontal, down a sink

– here, hand me that rude rudder, Hen!
Where?  That doorhandle, I mean!  Where's the door? 
Done matter now!  Juss hang on, bro!
And the vessel unwound – a purple skein

of twine – down the radiating roadway. 
C'mon – we gone paint the town 
we gone 'fine yo shades – an mine. 
Meanwhiles clean ylens an yclock too.  Hey!

The boat spun furiously down a wormhole 
of pomegranate and violet granite
and the heat intensified – H.O.T.
was the word!  Henry was growing a whole

lot tanner now!  His skin was pushed – hup –
hip-hup – by the pressure of fluid, ludic fugues
of bent altimetric sax solo figurines –
hysterical oral tenors recorded by birds flown up

and over from Paris in pairs of threes. Unknown 
quintetmobiles crocused overhead – dozens
of metamorphious dolphin oracles
floored the bouquet brigades before

water poured down the tubecore 
steaming with iris pennywhistles, 
tan tansy-green sideflutes, 
burning – new whirlings –

                   *        *
                   *        *
Gettin dizzy in this jalopie, Henry? 
Ya losin yo rime now, man!


They beached suddenly, outside the museum. 
Bluejay, Henry stepped out of the rocking straw. 
There – the statue:  Hermes, Orpheus. . . Eurydice. 
All was quiet.  They heard a low, uneven hum

and dropped. . . into the basement of the earth.
A room.  The colors glowed against a wall.
A woman – four – shrouded against it.  That was all. 
Devout Russian pilgrims. . . their primitive faith. . .

Only a study.  The final work – missing. 
Location – unknown.
She gone.
His manuscripts, at least – still try to sing.

Through the door of light, the sun still shines.
In the blue, among clouds, blazing, shaded.
And (in a double-green clovered meadow) waded
a single sheep.  Not white, not black.  Only thin lines.

                                                     3.17.98 (St. Patrick's Day)

Benefit Street (below Prospect Terrace)

Pinderhughes residence

Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice

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