India Point walkway
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. All Gaul is divided into three parts, says Julius Caesar. Stubborn Grew is divided into just two parts, about equal in size (roughly 3 hectares). We've covered the ground of the first part, titled Once in Providence; let's move on to the second, titled Fox Point.
You, beloved indefatigable reader, may wish to refer back to some of the earlier posts to make sense of my comments. Here's a link to the first entry. You can also find passage to all previous entries in the archive over there upon yon righthand sidebar.
The structure & design of Stubborn is a conundrum, even to me, the book's omnipotent Author. It flares, it zigs, it zags. Perhaps this difficulty is due to the fact that Stubborn is one-third of a trilogy (just like the Divine Comedy!). The entire work in its continental hugeness is titled Forth of July (as in, "the-coming-forth-of-July").
As outlined in the early entries to this blog, Stubborn is a clash of themes & dimensions. Henry the Ideal Orpheus seeks all kinds of rescue and resurrection, on both a personal & a national scale. He faces West, into the vastness of the territory, seeking his Eurydice in a ghost-dance trance. But then there's the other Henry, the ordinary mediocre small-town local Henry - soul caught in a very particular place, full of memory & history.
The first part of Stubborn is a species of daydream, originating on that couch, next to the porch window and the little clay fisherman figurine (Lucky). The journey to the depths of a local Underworld with Bluejay is enfolded in this dream. Something is accomplished there : a story is set in motion.
Yet Henry does not return from that Underworld hand-in-hand with his Eurydice.
Stubborn Grew pivots on something deeper - treachery, betrayal. As in the lowest circle of Dante's Inferno. So when the second part, Fox Point, opens, we find Poet Henry in his own self-conscious spotlight. He has accomplished something with his dream-vision (part one) : the grand scripto-crypto-journey is underway. Yet he pivots on a faux point - a pinpoint of false consciousness, of guilty conscience. He scrambles to advance his themes - he reaches for models & examples (Pound, Crane...) - he begins to dig back into RI history again. Yet the ineluctable drive of the second half of the book is inexorably gravitational, another descent : a splintering, a disintegration.
There is a new tone to the second part (perhaps something like the change from the Inferno to the Purgatorio). Once in Providence is constructive, expeditionary. Fox Point is nostalgic, elegiac. This new feeling actually helps to render the scene in a new light. It's a Providence of fond memory. & I'm memorializing it here again, just before I leave for Minneapolis.
Henry hunched over his memo book, alone
as usual. At a little round wooden table
amid the smokesteam clattery babble
of the Coffee Exchange. On Wickenden,
in Fox Point. Between the purling, endless
V of the two rivermouths, at the edge of the end
of the Bay, where the sea-air flows in to blend
with city noise and freshen the red of tubs of roses,
geraniums outside the little pastel houses
of the Portuguese – treeless, almost yardless,
cleanswept. Bonedry jumping-off places,
extensions of the vanished seaport. Breezes
carry geese now in prong formation toward Canada,
high over Henry's coffee-cluttered head, outside.
He sips his brew and reads over what he's already read
before – out of his own head – Bluejay/Spanish Armada?
The heavy tower of Holy Rosary throws a shadow over
Adler's Hardware and Henry's habitual hideout-
away-from-work. Soon he'll consider a cigarette, o.k.
Everything wavers and shuffles. He's in the clever clover,
a freeway exit ramp somewhere (195 droning along
there just beyond the church) deep inside.
A fixture, almost, now, in that – neighborhood,
that – mental neighborhood (a pointed,
disappointed tongue). Let's see, he thinks.
He writes. Fox Point. Fixed point, faux point.
Here comes the fleet now. Barefoot or
pigeon-toed, she comes. And sinks
into the distance. He looks up from his edgy
chisel work, unthinkingly sanding the graphite
against the tabletop circumference, white
forehead perpendicular and somewhat. . . clayey?
Thinking of dinner with his son the night before.
Chelo's, North End. Chowder, fish and chips.
Picture window acurve with the ellipse
of the entrance ramp to 146, the eyes of each car
ceremonially checking their plates. Dinner
together every two weeks. Alex says
we're going up to Maine this weekend – it's
the last time, before Grace and John move down here.
Going to say goodby. Henry's heart, suddenly,
begins to ache. Quiet – can't think
of much to say. I guess you'll have to hike
up Mount David one more time. Alex looks away.
Can't tell – is he regretful really, or only being polite?
The hill above the old house – just a little hump,
lonely there, above Lewiston. His mind goes limp
remembering the August apple-scent
that sent him backwards once into his own childhood.
Midwestern memory-alps in the gopher prairie.
Standing on the apple-slope thinking about Heidi
Johnson. Eternity comeback in the mind. Railroad
non-Euclidean parallel. August at its height,
one golden apple, swelling toward sundown.
Light rings the little bell-shaped hill – gone, gone.
Why? went the old line – branches bifurcate–
just don't go right, somehow. Alex looks away.
So long, 132 Sixth. Francesca on foot,
long ago now, down the spine to Fox Point,
where we got the futon, where she ran the woolery –
Sheep's Clothing (her idea). The universal wolf
shifts his butt in the Coffee Exchange, takes pen
in hand again. How would Bluejay explain
all this? Meanwhile the two small rivers keep flowing
into the gulf.
I drove down AlIens Avenue one evening, after pizza.
Coin for disk of cheese and peppers, olives.
Metal of trust – of Trusts – of Federal Reserves.
Baked hard and solid–buffalo chip awful Chichen Itza
stone perfect tarnished black nickel alloy doubloon.
Exchange coffins across the river, to the east –
mansions on the hill glittering their faces west –
but little Fox Point hidden behind the moon
cratered pockmarked rim of the 195 entrance ramp.
Einstein is saying the universe curves these days –
mass bending spacetime around it. Displace-
ment is a fox of loif, cheyeooldurn, sighed Gramp-
aahhhh. . .
– wondered if they were saying Mass there in Holy Rosary
(the stone crosstower just in view over the highway).
Green island in the soul. Tahiti – Cape Verde.
Emmanuela Labor and her children,
heavy with life, heavier, heavier.
This late March day (El Nino) feels like summer.
Music on car radio. Laundry, tender on the line,
drifting with the sound of a woman singing.
From trusty well-made historically-petrified Benefit
only a footwalk to Fox Point – and the sweat-
pivot of the longshoremen's Manny Almeida's Ringside
Lounge. Or as it was, anyway – before it vanished.
And she sped too, along with her balls of yarns.
Sheep's Clothing. Upstairs. Above Amara's milk barn
(Minnesotan – salty curdled American blend) – fished
out. Well-made boxers, in a man-made box –
all gone, it seems. Mass emigration upward, outward,
downward. And old Wasp goes it alone – toward
stinging pointlessness. And quiet docks,
heavy with time.
Henry at the circular tablette tabulates his Q-
forms with a dull wedge. Try to visualize almost
all history–uhh. . . – no – [cross that out].
Out in the water a brown scull backs away at you.
Brownian motion–dusting off the little river.
Meanwhile–tic tac tic tac . . two proud
pigeon toes stubbornly sail toward
Penelope's hideaway – a little gentrified striver
tries to make warped ends meet the parallel
woof. That's all two decades ago (in real time).
Sort of a double vanishing point frame-
work for a slightly demented and extra-dimensional
birdcall? Scratch that too.
The line's too long, finally – it breaks in two.
Lyin' on the half-truth, hom de cor,
gay blade, you. Hollow-hearted canoe.
And de lyin' is de point, Rasta!
Down Nile way – true de desert–done done
Ed Ed dead dead, son son!
Fox de edges, pappy – è basta!
Black man to de white-white Nile – de lion roar!
Out of dat elephant head, man –
de whaler ting – dat Cabo Verdean!
Sperm head – massive – nail to de door,
de purrin pyramid myrrh box, dere –
bottom ove sea!
Dat Fox Point, man – dat lndie!
An de massive waitin – pull down – everwhere!
We zigzagged the freeway bridge to India Point,
at the point of the Point. For the view,
and the fresh air – you
and me – tactfully jibing – fractal. Pint
sized branching movements across cracked
sidewalks – the wide bay, rusting hulls.
Squat oil tanks – iconoclastic citadels
completely faceless, white. We hiked
and talked, broken away from work
momentarily – and I remembered. . .
no [cross that out too] I mean I considered. . .
[forget it]. Ravens and seagulls worked
their waywards across the blue depth up above.
There was a wedding once – in the sunshine,
twenty years ago. We all danced, then –
the whole family – around the hovering stave
of a chestnut tree – for Cesca and me.
Less and less each year I can recall,
Bluejay. My mind (ponderous clay wheel)
keeps falling – to the bottom of the sea.
Steady droning roaring rises from the highway
all day long, where a line was drawn across
this neighborhood – to block out access
to the shore, wharves, getaway.
Twelve islands make up Cabo Verde – here
you're black or white – and Portuguese.
Tahiti's in the mind – a breeze
no person – neither Navigator Henry nor
Pessoa, omni-personal – no one can keep.
America – to the sea I can – to see.
Can you? A gridiron for reality,
a ladder to the sun. But now – I'm going to the deep.
in Fox Point
under the arbors
the Coffee Exchange
Holy Rosary Church