Bluejay (now in the guise of a vaguely Cape Verdean sailorman) still hovers in the background. His diatribe at the end of this passage is a reminder of the date of composition : anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination.
In the dark, aboard a cracken ark, Porky Pig
was eatin his cloven hoof with powerful canned
peas (minus his favorite buffalo) when she runned
aground suddenly. Haven, or riven? Fig
leaves fell from a blistered tree as he shuffled
across the deck with both hands behind his bark.
The night was howlin. Hairs on the back of his thick neck
bristled – what was that? Muffled wind riffled
across the gunwales. Up by the bowsprit and figurehead
he thought he espied another head – or its shadow,
lifted around the old and oaken prow.
Q? M? W?
The animals below were whimperin. Must be a scavenger,
thought he. A milk-white snow was driltin slowly
down now out of the impenetrable murk of sky.
Two furry ears – that's what he saw! Wolf-ears, for sure!
[Wolf, of course, as everybody knows, is Ravlin
in Old French. This is an allegorical clue
for the miniature navvies in blue
bottle flights of ravenous imagination.
Cowwamaunsch means I love you.
Cautantowwit – Raven.
We're back in Rhode Island
and Henry has a lot of explaining to do.]
Cape Verde was a Portuguese colony until 1975.
500 years. 12 islands. Lucrative.
By 1700, Providence pop. 1200.
Commerce: rum and slaves.
Tillinghast wharf, Fox Point. Lumber, dairy, dried
fish, beef, pork – for molasses, sugar, cotton,
men, women and children.
1770: rum to Africa = four-fIfths colonial trade.
1770: Rhode Island enslaved more Africans
than any colony in New England [Sam'l Hopkins].
Georgian mansions exfoliate above Transit,
merchant wealth spurs industrial development,
Power, Tillinghast, Brown, Goddard, Metcalf,
names to reckon with unto this day–
beneath each domicile's armorial display
a painfully tattooed arm. Aye. Your other half.
Money makes the man [LD. writes in diary].
Come along there, Nelson, little lord Fauntleroy.
Grandfather Aldrich was completely different
a great man with the people [Nelson A. Rockefeller].
Nelson W. Aldrich grocery boy Napoleon Boss
of the U.S.A. learned to hate the hoi polloi.
It was in the old church all unchanged since. . . my
youthful self sat bolt upright upon its hard board seats. . .
those which I had known as boys and girls were fathers
and mothers; many prematurely old, most unmistakeably
entering into that dreary monotony of drudgery
and toil from which they never could emerge.
Not our Nelson. He has brilliant dark eyes
which he fastens closely upon the person
manners genial and attractive fine
black hair over six feet tall nation's
economic business in his hands No,
don't ask me any questions, let's talk about
something else he wanted to found an estate
family feeling, love of beautiful things [oh
yeah: "innate class sense"] above the reach
of circumstance, above the whirlwind
of common passion very walls whispered
of the state secrets they have heard [Beach
today? Yacht] Five years imprisoning alliance
to traffic and then I will be free Politics
transcendent business in Gilded Age [just fix
the votes] Oligarchy-approved voting restrictions
20 of the 38 towns that sent Nelson to Senate
bought outright he was above it all – the hordes
and swarms of Fox Point [Lower East Side]
for 30 yrs never gave a speech seldom wrote a letter
Sugar Trust $7 million in cash to Aldrich if he'd
fix the Providence streetcar monopoly United Gas
and Improvement pleasure for me to arrange this
don't bother to read just sign your name and return to me
SENATOR ALDRICH AND SUGAR
REPUBLICAN TARIFF LEADER OWNED BY THE TRUST
His daughter married the only son and destined successor
of John D. Rockefeller. Thus, the chief exploiter
of the American people is closely allied by marriage
with the chief schemer [gutter newspaper yeller
journalism] great overriding purpose to his career
private goods were what he valued most, and it was private
The yachts, the sleek yachts, the yachts
in the attics of Attica, bottled, sold.
Unable to read the sequestered forehead
in the hold – nature's formulaic J-stroke
coming home, up Nile. Weight
of a man's arm, or black stone, in
the scale of a frozen Slavic horizon
[Pushkin's Horseman, mile after mile
in Neva-Neva land] – wolfman [out of focus]
his eyes blurring coming out of the library
[John D. Rockefeller Brown University]
heads to Wickenden – hocus-pocus.
Heavy weight on heart. Clay on sea-floor
could be Atlantis or some Coatlicue
calculation. Old and rich, you
keeping sinking [cream? a little more?
– no thanks]. Almost time to go back.
Where's my list. The rivers keep churning
toward that monotonous drowning
delta. He's just a cross-eyed Micmac,
a rocky feller. Wow Mon.
You sho look like a wolf today.
Say, are them fangs made a clay?
– See you in the hippodrome,
Nile Maiden. Ship done hit rock bottom.
Quit horsin around. Scrounge
me up some greenbacks fo the Lounge.
Manny's Ringside. Last chance now – only home.
The old Cape Verdean Fox Point was gradually
washed away by historic preservation and urban
renewal. Coulda been a contender. Down at Manny's
Ringside they still gathered years later for the memory –
longshoreman from the islands keeping
alive the swansong of the Rooster – Manuel
Q. Ledo. One-upped all the bosses for Local
1329. Henry at their beck and call tacking
here and there noting it down – because
along that friendly rudder of the bar he felt
the shadow of a piece of it all – nostalgia, silt,
salt air. And now it loomed into view–the rose.
Not the fragrance of the flower but a splintered
thorn from keel, prow, weathered shoreman's hook.
The dead weight of it stretching the wrist, the knock
of bulky hulls against the wharf. Hulk, centered,
manual, with planted feet. Mock if you will.
The will was trance. . . transfigured, there.
When time steps one way, ineluctable – we share
its fate. Memory is pierced. Tattooed. Impersonal.
The future is a nest of possibilities. The past
a splintery keel of heavy oak. Its very weight
(fixed point of pigeon towline – artifact)
whispered–cut the bull now. Change your course.
And into Providence harbor sails the Ernestina.
Former Effie G – no phantom bark. Pierced
Cape Verdean sailing history. Rehearsed,
reharnessed. Figurehead. Deus ex deadwood machina.
A bonnie lass she was too. Pigeon-prowed, dove-
winged captain's unwed bride, his pride
and joy – dragging her husband's nets carried
the precious spooled sheep's clothing to the cove.
Until he broke it all apart. Not
all his skilled Caribbean dissertations
could set the mast in place again.
Only. . . the splinter is an anchor now. Heart-
shaken-down pierced acorn coracle began to grow
steadfast sidelined kelson. Missing leg
become J-stroke missive skyborn eaglegg
pen circling around the pen. Icon. Leo,
Eleonore, Elena – Negus of leonine line highborn
above her, ever-never new-encompassing
(compassionate) my perky pining
– sharing Charon
eyeing his hand with a single coptic penny
for a charitable crossing come to pass.
Passed hand to hand. Kermess
or spinning wheel around a tiny tree
juniper vessel balm so prodigal-corne-home
chasing elusive black sheep fader cat
anchored in long, birchbarky hat
with pine bows in rosy peak-limned
limbs. Penny to a poundsworth weighted
with poversity. Oh say can you see
high C – C'est la V!
Fxpt . fated.
And around and around and around that point we go
– that's the whole point, thought Henry,
as he whistled low
in the pussy willow – wheeee. . .
the wind crying in the cedar branches overhead.
The heart a target for a pistol shot.
Sunspot – mole on your breast.
Love's nest – double in the mirror – redhead,
flaming, felix, broken open. Two lips
of forking clay (divided once) now form
a prow or figurehead. And the storm
is a raining eye–apocalypse.
The new eye in your chest X-pierced it all.
Love afloat like wind above thought form
fills sails with effigies – an earnest swarm,
magnanimous, domeward. Iconofilial.
Pulls you starboard leeward toward the shipyard
constantly , Venetian gardener. Bronze
horses, hidden in the snow. Sins
hidden now too – the memo lists, the word
keels over – Pushkin on his back – fur
electricity. Frank transit of Venus
one night stand for a little death
in Memphis – be milk, peaceful, above never.
Peters out now overhead. Bare constellation.
Nile island Pereslavl Charon barge,
harred crossroad, dirge
in heaven, not
in London, Dublin, Lisbon.
Providence unproven, dense.
Why, it don make no sense
that a man like that one
gotta bleed all ove creation
f the sake of a feeble gam
boll weevil bugger gem
of a conversation,
man! Square it wid yo motha!
M tired a these cheatin
chit-chats an bleatin
explanafornicatory bro haha.
Misty formations an apolocalisthenics a
deep well mints an sugardaddies an
saurkraut an meansly pots o'paddies
an whitegal neurasthenics an
Henry wid his mouf wide open!
Keep on cryin, cryin.
And so slowly, slowly, the brokenbacked keel
moved upstream. Magnanimous,
the wind until
we can hold no more and the dove
sets sail toward the green mountain
cooing morn and the ark cannot contain
any more saturnine bronze lead from above.
Tugboats in Providence Harbor
The Effie M. Morrissey - now Ernestina
Sen. Nelson W. Aldrich
Manny Almeida's Ringside Lounge (Wickenden St.)