Neglected garden

With this 3rd chapter, Stubborn Grew takes a turn toward dramatic dialogue.  Not sketchy opening gambits, as in chapter 1, and not straightforward narrative, as in the London chapter 2, but rather an encounter.

Noted in earlier posts (here and here) the role played by an actual bluejay in the genesis of this ramble.  The Orpheus-pattern of Bluejay, the Northwest Coast legendary trickster-figure.

Orpheus lost his head to the Maenads, & his head went singing down the river.  Stubborn Grew begins with "Shakespeare's Head", and a journey to the headwaters of English poetry (London).  Now, in the garden behind Shakespeare's Head (the building in Providence), Henry is about to encounter his companion, his spirit-guide.  Like the friend of "Henry" in Berryman's Dream Songs, Bluejay is an imaginary alter ego, or conscience.  But he's more than that.  He's the Hermes to Henry's Orpheus; the psychopomp, tour-guide to the Underworld.  As Virgil is to Dante in the Divine Comedy, so Bluejay to Henry.  With his Queequeg-ish virtual-reality tattoos, his prehistoric "eye-in-hand", and his magic Lincoln penny, Bluejay exerts fantastic spirit-powers to break up Henry's little daylight world.

If Stubborn Grew ever got, or gets, a proper public hearing, it might very well raise hackles & draw criticism, just as did Berryman's appropriation of "black-talk" slang in the Dream Songs.  Bluejay is a ghost; he is also a Native American; he is also African-American.  His sexuality is ambiguous; he has the trickster attitudes of a "crazy guy".  He is an American outcast of the type who lurks in Hart Crane (the hoboes) and Melville.  He speaks of the trouble underlying all the surface order & niceness; but he also projects play, freedom, love, justice.  He is a pivotal fellow in this story - even if he (that is, I) might be criticized as just that : a cliche, a stereotype...

In another sense, Bluejay is an acknowledgement of Melville and Crane, in the way that the figure of Virgil, in the Divine Comedy, was an homage to the maker of the Aeneid.

Anyway, this passage from the chapter called Once in Paradise is where the bluejay yodeling in my backyard becomes personified, enters the tale.


Dusk was gathering in the neglected garden; 
one star in the turquoise. . . longing for another. 
Beneath the iconoclastic scimitar
of an early moon, within the slate pattern

of empty benches.  An evening watercolor 
tides through clay Henry, waiting there
for nothing.  Do not compare.
Eyes stare into the long frieze of stratosphere,

waiting, waiting.  Nothing comes from the air. 
But a rustling or crackling in the shrubbery 
the low blur of a shadow – it's Bluejay,
or his shadow.  Come sit down – here.

Tell me bout your journey – what you lookin for. 
I'll tell you bout mine.  The eyes
in the dark look straight ahead – release 
from sorrow and expectation – a dark shore,


Empty bench behind Shakespeare's Head

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