Deep tattooistics

Now this next passage of Once in Paradise is very mysterious.  Henry is sitting with Bluejay in the shadowy garden behind Shakespeare's Head, just below the Armory building (a hulking plaster-gray castle situated just up the hill adjacent to Sh's Head).  Bluejay doesn't say much - but the tattoos on his arm exert a magnetic effect...

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).

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