Obscurities abound. The poem was written in the late 1990s - after the First Gulf War, before 9/11 and all that followed. Henry, with help of Bluejay, is delving into murky psychological waters. There was a sense after the 1st Gulf War - bygone period already - of a style shift. The alpha-macho military look became cool - the buzz-cuts, camo outfits, oversize jeeps & Hummers. This was something new at the time. It was a fashion ripple from U.S. entanglements in Iraq and the Middle East.
Seems to be something a bit prescient about this and adjacent sections of Stubborn Grew. A foreboding of future strife. But I was also looking - again, with help of Queequeg/Bluejay - into the repressed homoeroticism of warfare, warrior culture. As in Melville (Moby-Dick et al.) this ambiguous dimension colors the atmosphere, adds some sort of irony to the cultural situation. It's also a reflection of the outcast/scapegoat dynamics which are pervasive...
Some obscurities can be illuminated by a very hard-to-find and eccentric but brilliant book by Viola Sachs, titled The Game of Creation. A study of Melville's coded gematria, his symbolic number-&-letter systems, at play in Moby-Dick. I'm fiddling with some of the symbols & thematics Sachs draws out.
There was silence in the starlit backyard.
Far below the spine of the ridge, the bawling
of worn-out Rovers, Jeep Harpooneers, trawling
the iron highway. The white noise of the herd.
The moon shed a parched light, through the beech
trees and the maples, down onto Bluejay's arm.
Henry squinted. Images began to form
before his eyes or in the back of his head – each
indentation whorling, interlacing, a curlicue
of narrow formations, a lake of clay-coated
muscle-shored black sailor's pearl-moted talki-
talkitalki cueduetlicueduetli dumbshowlodrumsolo
strung minarets. The red tongue silent,
the palms aswaying, the stars askew.
Henry stared down tattoo avenue, until
the whole of Shakespeare's backyard bent
into a dusty parallax (black, white, gray).
Sudden – Olympian thunder rent the airwaves.
A Missing Tailcat lunged into the grooves
of ice – Witch Country swells the day –
Dust Bowl football suddenly Game to Play!
Smart missiles artificially enhanced
for endless penetration danced
toward Dad's golf bags – hip houris
scuttled for shelter (squired under the square
air-raid shelters screwed shut by sultry sheiks)
just in time before the pool cue speared the steaks –
and I ran (unfertile myself) into the queer
crescent, deserted by storm, rapped on the head
by a load of unbending lustrous Grecian pillars
ironed by a missing Nelson in Trafalgar's
wasteland (protected by a titanium toolshed).