Mention of "the original apple tree" in the penultimate stanza refers to the curious quasi-mythical report that when Roger Williams' remains were excavated at Prospect Terrace, an enormous apple-tree root was unearthed, in the distinct shape of a human body. (Michael Harper wrote a fine poem about this : "History as Apple Tree".)
The stars were partially out in heaven. The tattooed
mystery man led the way, as they weaved a wide circle
up toward the summit of the hill on Doyle.
To the Observatory. Stars for starters, he muttered
over his shoulder. All eyes on Orion. They climbed
to Benefit Street. Henry glanced to his right,
down through the tunnel of mild 19th-century
lights, the stately, vaguely violet clapboard
of sea-captains. Maybe you been here before,
he smiled. If the shoe fits, steal it.
Whatever that means, Henry thought,
he won't reveal it – not yet. They hiked some more,
always climbing uphill to the left. Past
the old apartment, the shadowy backyard, the
pushed-in stalks of last year's corn. Henry averted
his eyes – and then they were there, at last.
They spiraled quickly up the iron steps of that
astronomical crow's nest. Bluejay pushed aside
the telescope – won't be needin it – pried
open a rectangle – now will you take alook at that!
Nine-one-nine-four-nine-one-four-nine. . .
– making mysterious calculations on his fingers–
there! See that redeye to the far left of Zero Cyrus?
That there's a supernova! Yeah! All iron, all iron!
Most luminous, 0 most luminous – keepin
the gravity from fallin back where she came from–
this ain't no brown dwarfed lead humdrum
crab spheroid, sonny! We talkin
pulsars, man – cosmic heartbeats! Looka there!
Henry followed his arm along the Jackson Pollock
imitation behind his right elbow toward Star Hillock
70-D. He could see nothing. That's it! Where?
You can't see it? No. Well – that's it! What?
Do I haveta typeset it for y'all?
That's a – BLACK HOLE!!
Henry's eyes gazed, glazed over (blurred) at it
– through the round brick aperture – until
the strange object (swallowing normal galaxies
into a sub-subatomic, petrified, dervish-dizzious
dish of missing mass) sent back a semi-visible
smile. Pushkin? mumbled Henry. Quasar!
retorted Bluejay. I dunno bout your cat, man –
don't b’lieve you even own one – y'ken?
You after some other kin' a singular
kitty, I reckon – an maybe you don't even knows it!
But it don't matter – 90 percent of it's dark anyways
up there – specially them empty spaces
in yo shakey brain, boy! An you wants to close it
with yo ends meetin yo begins – juss like that po' fella
strugglin down Benefit wid his head half cock
fulla bull – lonely, man! – wid his in-yo-eye ca-ca
halfravin maniac half drunk caskerado'd wineseller
fo a storybook endin! Sheesh, there he goes!
They saw (just beyond 51 Pegasi) a small brown dwarf
fluctuate toward quantum doubloon whorf
nine negentropy – somehow! But there it was!
The hillside rose, dark, against the patterns
sown with stars. Moonlit, reflective.
It seemed a maze grown darker toward the center,
where the roof of the Athenaeum, silvered, turns
like an inverted gnomon in the ghostly air,
and the weathered, eroded, blackened bronze
of the double doors hangs downward, and bells
drone, silently, in the mind only, there.
You think the Universe is hard to see, said Bluejay.
Take a mighty good telescope to see what goin on
right here – long that street down there. Son,
I'm onna mission too – but my heart can't say
not just yet. You ain't ready for it.
Henry felt blind now. You gonna get more blind.
He turned – saw Bluejay, glowing in the dark. Find
out – we gotta take a differnt brancha time – hit
ona them closed timelike curves, like. Back
to the 19th century – 49 steps doubleback –
a million ovum, almost. Backtrack –
cause the Cause's all outa whack!
Henry looked out steadily along the old ridge,
toward the Terrace, where the original apple tree
once harbored Roger's root, squared. He couldn't see,
but felt, united with – strange certainty. An edge.
A line, beating against his heart. His heart,
broken. Broken, open. And the wind blew through
(wind full of ghosts). And he knew –
felt. Without seeing. Broken. It was a start.
3.15.98 (Ides of March)
Roger Williams Memorial