Duet for Cats

So hey, the mighty micro-epic continues.  Stubborn Grew consists of two large Parts.  Each part contains 4 chapters.  So we are stepping into the 4th chapter of Part One now, called Duet for Cats (at the Athenaeum).  The Athenaeum is a fine old subscription library on Benefit St. in Providence.  The famous "last photo" of a haunted Edgar Poe was taken there : his hoped-for fiancee Helen Whitman lived a few blocks down Benefit.

Poe is an appropriate avatar for this chapter.  Our Hero Henry and his pal Bluejay are about to embark on an epic journey over a few square blocks on Providence's College Hill ridge. Ostensibly they are searching for Henry's lost cat, Pushkin - but it's really a descent to the underworld (technical term for which is catabasis).

The catabasis for Henry is a trip down memory lane, a "down & back".  In the process our two adventurers recapitulate Rhode Island history, as well as the shady side of Henry's personal past.

The tone is set by the opening.  We started with a little fishing expedition on Fisher Street, in the rowboat "Lucky" - now we come to Felix ("lucky", in Latin) Street.  The undertone here is that theological notion of the "fortunate fall", the felix culpa.  Mankind tumbles into sin in order that grace might abound (fortunately).  So we are going down, down, down under the aegis of this notion.

& now we have a duet for two voices.  Henry is thinking of a time & place where his own actions began the break-up of his marriage.


The evening shadows fell on Felix Street.
The balanced rays deep red and dusky, 
penetrating woodframe windows.  Your basketry
from Mexico, straw hats and bowls, takes light

and turns it into clay.  A Roman globe 
or merry-go-round, against the wall. . . 
have I been here before?  A bell
out of some immured grandfather clock

astrolabe spells out your constellation. 
Berenice.  Redhead, red shift, red clay. . . 
black hair.  Night's the best time of day
muttered Bluejay.  Not some con's illustration.

Only these threads woven near your heart. 
Afloat, a coracle hides toward the calf
of your tempestuous Vinland, False
staff.  S'ain't no rocky dirk in the murk, upstart.

And the IV'd brick sighs once more.  And sighs 
veer (blindly) toward your fractured shore 
where a velvet quincunx in the mirror 
whispers: once more, once more. Once.

Edgar Allan Poe (in Providence)

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