Cowammaunsch. Moshassuck. Cowammaunsch.

This next section of Stubborn Grew is extensive, a lot going on.  It's divided into sections which open with a kind of incantation from the Narragansett language (which Roger Williams studied & spoke). The poem is a sketchy, partial microcosm of the history of this microcosmic little state, as seen through the eyes of Bluejay - the first European settlers, treaties with the Narragansetts, the Dorr War... pivotal points in the story of a separate, particular colony & state, established on certain Rogerian principles of fairness, openness, and tolerance, but not always living up to them.


Cowammaunsch.  Moshassuck.  Cowammaunsch
Bluejay sat in the cut-stone corner by the memorial 
marker of the original spring, muttering.  Are you ill? 
asked Henry.  He looked phosphorescent, hunched

over the dry well.  North Main, spectral
in the glare of streetlights.  What cheer, Netop? 
The specter gave a little chuckle.  Nope.
Juss settlin down.  We gotto getta work, that all.

You lookin for that shadow cat a yours, whatever she is;
 I gotta find my Yoi, my other half.  Your sister?
Like a pigeon to a Bluejay, mister.
Thought she was parked up Angell Street – then whiz,

gone again.  Spacetime, man, is totally vicious, 
least sometimes.  All them cauchy surfaces!
But we gonna lay down a lil non-ukelele curvaceous 
on them strings, baby – I mean them springs

sorta Viconious harmonics – either theory or the other! 
You'll see.  Henry thought, I'm sposed to get more blind. . . 
– gonna take that wormhole from behind, if "behind"
is the righteous word fo "it" – blind as a nightcrawler,

thought Henry. This catamaran's just floatin around, 
the jokester. . . Bluejay meanwhile was doubled over, 
quiet.  Over here, Henry.  His tone was sober.
Henry moved closer.  Bluejay held out his left hand

and the eye began to glow.  His five fingers spread, 
his palm directly over the iron disk marker.
The eye grew bright – all around it, darker.
Hen was getting hypnotized.  Felt the reddish

roots of his hair grow feathers, so it seemed –
and a floppy comb or crown bulged from his brow –
and he flapped – and began to float now
still staring into the other bird's calm hand.

What the hell is going on? he heard him yell.
Relax, Red – forget about yo'self – juss look.
He stared – and slowly, slowly. . . the spell took. 
Stared into a moss-green tunnel – like a wishing well. . .

– and entered it.  He was in a greenhouse. . .
had been here before!  Six-sided, like a transparent 
drydocked hull, creviced with young plant
growth, vines, the smell of compost, peatmoss;

clean, fresh, sparkling springlight, floating dustmotes 
down through the slanted ribs of southern exposure; 
and seated beside him, leaning closer, closer. . .
it was. . .  P-n! No rusty memory, but warm... the roots

stirred through his body, and hers – it could happen, 
he thought – even to us!  Hard to believe.
Like twins, or – twinned now – how to behave?
He didn't know.  He kissed her once, then.

She smiled. . . and sighed. . . and then the bright-
ribbed greenhouse blurred away again. 
The eye in Bluejay's hand was a dull copper pan, 
creased with axlegrease – streaks of dirt.


Cowammaunsch.  Moshassuck.  Cowammaunsch.
In the early March air, sparkling, if you're lucky and 
down in the valley with the youngsters go – Roger and 
Tom Angell, sunlit, where the moose range for lunch;

Roger (the upstart crow, no ponderous militant 
antique, careworn with his righteous cares like the 
mass in Massachusetts, but thinking it through –
a key within a box with a bunch of keys) went

off often into the Indian den, canonical and friendly,
listening, learning; and driven out, marched down 
boldly into early air, with trumpet-vine for pen. 
Deed from Cannannicus and Miantonomi:

. . . ye lands and meadows upon the two fresh rivers 
Mooshausick and Wanasquetucket, doe now
by these presents. . . in witness thereof, we
have hereunto set our hands.  [Canoe; doubled arrows]

Meadows and open spaces for the refugees,
forever and ever – this was their pledge. 
Land for none unless for all – no hedge
of laws against outsiders.  Guarantees,

handshook and signed in primitive consensus
of these – hardy, penniless and young.
God not in a Boston magistracy, but among 
them all, invisible – O Democracy! – and so it was.

A Charter – for a separate Colony – and Roger 
sails for London – (Williams, Clarke)
sailed home again, triumphantly – regal oak-
tree Charles sealed – snakeskin imprimature 

charged into Boston – waved it in their faces, 
laughed – and homeward by canoe – Rhode
Island's little hills rejoicing – 29 oaksplitting grandstand 
hip hip. . . – these echoes. . . echoes. . . fade.  Echoes, traces

of truces. . . broken, later.  The years crowd.
The crowd cheers.  Crow charts around the eyes. 
The crows, the crowing.  Grows dark.  No surprise –
land grows dear.  Voices mutter – angry, rude.


Cowammaunsch.  Moshassuck.  Cowammaunsch.
 – Musta took the wrong timebranch, he frowned. 
Redman Adam's apple gone all rusty brown. 
Henry squinted hard at that heavy, metallic palm.

It was a whole brown universe in motion,
sort of – all smelly and smooched – particles 
in parchmentsize punypapers, tackle
of doublejammin figurefissures, commotions

everyman one angry hungrycocky, hotspurred 
for landedmoney, so they could franchise.
The vices coming fast and furious –
eighteenforty at a time – but the gentry preferred

the old Charter of sixteenforty or so – big differences!
The whaleboat hillside (covered with secretunnels,
caves, wormholes for exlaves) smells like Swisscheese –
the propertied gents circle the wagons – everybody waffles. . .

until that little, meek and modest lawyer, Tommy Dorr 
stands up and says – we gotta pierce the Charlie II charter! 
Hafta open up a freemen's democratic franchise, here! 
We got these Irish workingmen (lot ovum black, or

near so) crowding into tiny roadside Rhody shacks, while 
everybody's great granddad is lording it – a legal error! 
This is a miracle, America – a Dorr War! And so
it was. Libraritarian abandons genteel Yankee style

takes up the rude sword – po man's Napoleon –
a nappy lion on the (verbal) field! Against the will
of fathers, brothers, preachers, senators – he will
go civil war! Gravitous vices croak – we already had one

evil one!  A Revolution!  And we won, that one! 
Dorr will have none.  Unless we all can vote –
all one and all – democracy's a bankrupt note. 
And so the little state divides. Gentlemen

against mechanics.  Us and them.  You and me. 
The shadow from the greenery sun – the Irishmen 
won't let the freeborn Negroes join the fun –
so they support the silverspoonfed aristocracy.

Two capitals, two constitutions – island 
occluded in Bermuda triangle – Napoleon 
puffeduped and farcical – a rebellious cannon
 – spouting a cone of wet ammunition, blackened
aimed at his own father in the fogbound Armory
– won't light – Dorr makes a scrambuled run for it –
 the fraidomflighters scatter too – and fatally hit,
a Newport Gould goes down – the only casualty?

– the documents gone missing. . .


Henry blinked – felt glare press behind eyes. 
Bluejay – what the hell's the point here?
Irony of all this revolutionary mirror war 
within the state? Device, divide, devise. . .

is that all there is, right down to zero hour? 
Bluejay looked back, closed his fingers gently. 
It juss another rotten apple, man. Eventually –
like about 50 year later – they put up a Dorr statue.

Meanwhiles he pines away in gaol, down there 
behind the former Cove, seven, eight year. 
Writes a lotta letters – to his mother.
(Dorr never mucha ladies' man – that f’sure).

Gets pretty po an sick aftwhile they let him go. 
Can't do no harm – the moneyed gents in charge. 
All peace an quiet f’long time – like surge
an ebb, ebb an surge – that history, y'now.

Til the next big war – the real one – come along. 
All f’one, one f’all – kinda phony, y'know – until 
fall come – winter – ev'body feel that chill.
Done matter who you are.  Juss done come out wrong.

Why, that's kinda sad, Bluejay.  That's terrible.
Henry looked up – the dark hillside above – then
suddenly saw – barely, in the dark – the dun
colored outline – RW, statuesque, in lostgrained marble.

Hey!  C'mon, Bluejay!  Live ain't over yet!  Let's go –
up to the Terrace!  There's old Roger himself, up there! 
Bluejay turned SE to see.  Yeah, I see the ol’ bear.
He got up and shook himself – blood to flow

into his phosphoric, porous feet and hands –
and said:  you know what you doin, Henry m'man? 
You know you zigshaggin?  Raven an zigshaggin
a sweetblack rizebury W, man – donch U?  Unnerstan?

A what?  Sho.

Henry's very own eye-in-hand (no cash value)

Roger's spring

Prospect Terrace

Grave of Gov. Thomas Dorr (Swan Point Cemetery)

Fogman, Bluejay & Sistah Yoi

Bluejay comes from another place.  He is some kind of obscure spirit of long-ago America.  Yet he's on his own search for "Eurydice", one which parallels that of Orpheo-Henry & his Juliet (examine the early blog-posts for more on this).

Just as Henry snapped back to 19th-cent. & colonial America after their first encounter, so, in the following passage, Bluejay interrupts some boring Henry-recitation to relate a version of an archaic Orpheus/Bluejay tale from the Northwest Coast (Oregon, Washington, Vancouver).  It's like two Orpheus-figures, on opposite sides of a mirror.


. . . some penny-a-day newspaper, man.  Great. 
Sees her ghost, right?  Like super natural, 
straight down some gothamized aisle de wildy, 
all French – and she's blushin, for real!  Wait

I'm not finished – you done lost me again, Henrah
They were retracing their steps, roughly SSW 
toward Roger's original igloo.  I don' follow you. 
(The look over the shoulder made Henry quiver).

There is fog over the Land of the Dead. 
Yoiyoi!– Hen was really shaky now.  Ghosts! 
No, geese.  You should shoot the geese
Bluejay was saying.  Where are we, Dad?

said Henry, nervous.  Just listen up, daddyo,
it's my storytime.  It was very dark now over land 
and sea.  That's what she said to me, understand? 
You should shoot the geese.  Yoi, muh sistah.  Yoi.

They allus lookin up muh skirts, the dogbait!
Like it was some kinda civics lesson an I'm yo model 
to a T, get it?  Drive me crazy, she says.  Hell,
Ike'n fix that, officer!  I says – an shoots her in the butt!

Yoi!  I thought it was a laugh, but then I felt bad. . . 
What I done, what I done.  Won't never be fixed again! 
Big headache, man – goin round an roun 
Yoi, I says – you should marry with the dead.

Dunno what I was sayin – lotta troublen pain. 
Po' gal!  One day, Fog come.  Fog in human shape. 
Hip in the eyes, bull's eye – Yoi's up an
gone.  There is no reason I should remain

here any longer; I am married to you, says Yoi. 
An she gone down the trail with him, cross
five prairies fulla flowers – into them depths
of the earth.  With Fogman.   She juss want to die.

But she leave me a message, man!
Says – when you comes to see me, all cuesquared 
a th'dark – you gotta fill fivesquare buckets 
fulla water.  Cause them prairies – they burn!

So I resolves to go – but then – I can't find the trail! 
Til one day, Fogman hisself shows up – says, 
c'mon, joker – you wanna see yo sistah – she's
wi' me.  I grabs my buckets an follows – hell,

man, it was hot! Ever one of them prairies was 
on fire!  Flowers – flowin with flowers – blazin! 
I puts out one fire – I puts out another – then 
Fogman says – you gotta close your eyes.

Cause you a livin man. An you comin among the dead. 
Woooooo, I was gettin the shakes then, boy!
But I ain't seen nothin yet. Hoy de hoy – now
I hears this sound – ko ko ko. Ko ko ko. Ko ko ko. Said,

Fogman, what that?  Open your eyes now, man.
I opens–an down this riverbank – big, muddy –
what I see?  Skulls, man – rollin down at me! 
Callin, ko ko ko, ko ko ko. .. Yikes! – so then

Fogman says, c'mon up to my home.
We gonna say hello to Yoi.  The skulls they follow us, 
rollin along like a herda tumbleweed cactus,
or somethin. I tries to ignore em.

Now Henry, man, I'm tellin all this straight.
I could go on an on, bout the salmon feast we ate,
me an Yoi and Fogman hubby – skulls eaten offa plate 
an so on. . . but it's gettin late.  I'll make it short.

Sistah Yoi break all them rules, an so do I. 
We eats the salmon with our eyes open, o.k. –
an it turns into bark.  I says to her, hey,
let's get outa here.  I'm freaked.  So am I.

We heads for the door – makes a run for it.
The skulls come roilin right after us, yellin ko ko ko! 
an all that, loud as they can rattle.  Les go!
We streaked outa there – shit,

man, it were no contest.  We still got legs.
Them heads is rollin like a difficult task is 
proposed to the hero.  But it's
nothin.  We crost them five prairies before the eggs

is fried over easy, know what I mean? 
It's like, the entire tale consists of one move; 
you gotta just get into the J groove! 
Misfortune or lack is made known.

Yeah, well I know bout them vee-prop engines,
firsthand.  We was flyin.  Yoi was feelin good.
We gets home. The 'hood comes down, like a flood. 
Then – goddamn it – the villain effects a substitution.

Five years later, right – we're havin salmon.
Sittin aroun, the whole family diggin it, good times. 
Think it was July, o.k.  Yoi, she finishes the clams, 
starts on the fish, right–close her eyes – an she's gone!

I looks on her plate – there's little pieces of bark on it! 
Damn that Fogman!  My eyes gettin all blurry –
stingin with it!  So you understan, Henry –
maybe – why I gots to hurry.  Before I'm just a obit

myself!  Hear what I'm sayin?  Bluejay looked mighty 
serious and sober at that moment in time,
his eyes fixed on the horizon, or on Orion – (I'm
not quite sure which).  The dark little city

stretched before us; somewhere, there was a door.
Or perhaps we were the door – some kind of whining 
whirlwind, some kind of cloud-sized, circling
hand over our eyes – above the pyramid, over the dolour.

And the pair of us move downward-forward –

                           *                  *
                           *                  *

                           *                  *

Roger Williams' "original spring"

Bluejay's Hubble hubbub

Bluejay leads Henry up past his old family apt. on Doyle Avenue, & across Hope to the Ladd Observatory, for a view of the stars & streets.

Mention of "the original apple tree" in the penultimate stanza refers to the curious quasi-mythical report that when Roger Williams' remains were excavated at Prospect Terrace, an enormous apple-tree root was unearthed, in the distinct shape of a human body.  (Michael Harper wrote a fine poem about this : "History as Apple Tree".)

4. (cont.)


The stars were partially out in heaven.  The tattooed 
mystery man led the way, as they weaved a wide circle 
up toward the summit of the hill on Doyle.
To the Observatory.  Stars for starters, he muttered

over his shoulder.  All eyes on Orion.  They climbed 
to Benefit Street.  Henry glanced to his right, 
down through the tunnel of mild 19th-century 
lights, the stately, vaguely violet clapboard

of sea-captains.  Maybe you been here before,
he smiled.  If the shoe fits, steal it.
Whatever that means, Henry thought,
he won't reveal it – not yet.  They hiked some more,

always climbing uphill to the left.  Past
the old apartment, the shadowy backyard, the 
pushed-in stalks of last year's corn.  Henry averted 
his eyes – and then they were there, at last.

They spiraled quickly up the iron steps of that 
astronomical crow's nest.  Bluejay pushed aside 
the telescope – won't be needin it – pried
open a rectangle – now will you take alook at that!

Nine-one-nine-four-nine-one-four-nine. . . 
– making mysterious calculations on his fingers–
there!  See that redeye to the far left of Zero Cyrus?
That there's a supernova!  Yeah!  All iron, all iron!

Most luminous, 0 most luminous – keepin
the gravity from fallin back where she came from–
this ain't no brown dwarfed lead humdrum
crab spheroid, sonny!  We talkin

pulsars, man – cosmic heartbeats!  Looka there!
Henry followed his arm along the Jackson Pollock 
imitation behind his right elbow toward Star Hillock 
70-D. He could see nothing.  That's it!  Where?

You can't see it?  No.  Well – that's it!  What? 
Do I haveta typeset it for y'all?
That's a – BLACK HOLE!!
Henry's eyes gazed, glazed over (blurred) at it

– through the round brick aperture – until
the strange object (swallowing normal galaxies 
into a sub-subatomic, petrified, dervish-dizzious 
dish of missing mass) sent back a semi-visible

smile.  Pushkin? mumbled Henry.  Quasar! 
retorted Bluejay.  I dunno bout your cat, man –
don't b’lieve you even own one – y'ken?
You after some other kin' a singular

kitty, I reckon – an maybe you don't even knows it! 
But it don't matter – 90 percent of it's dark anyways 
up there – specially them empty spaces
in yo shakey brain, boy!  An you wants to close it

with yo ends meetin yo begins – juss like that po' fella 
strugglin down Benefit wid his head half cock
fulla bull – lonely, man! – wid his in-yo-eye ca-ca 
halfravin maniac half drunk caskerado'd wineseller

fo a storybook endin!  Sheesh, there he goes!
They saw (just beyond 51 Pegasi) a small brown dwarf 
fluctuate toward quantum doubloon whorf
nine negentropy – somehow!  But there it was!

The hillside rose, dark, against the patterns 
sown with stars.  Moonlit, reflective.
It seemed a maze grown darker toward the center, 
where the roof of the Athenaeum, silvered, turns

like an inverted gnomon in the ghostly air, 
and the weathered, eroded, blackened bronze 
of the double doors hangs downward, and bells 
drone, silently, in the mind only, there.

You think the Universe is hard to see, said Bluejay. 
Take a mighty good telescope to see what goin on 
right here – long that street down there. Son,
I'm onna mission too – but my heart can't say

not just yet.  You ain't ready for it.
Henry felt blind now.  You gonna get more blind. 
He turned – saw Bluejay, glowing in the dark.  Find 
out – we gotta take a differnt brancha time – hit

ona them closed timelike curves, like.  Back 
to the 19th century – 49 steps doubleback –
a million ovum, almost.  Backtrack –
cause the Cause's all outa whack!

Henry looked out steadily along the old ridge, 
toward the Terrace, where the original apple tree 
once harbored Roger's root, squared.  He couldn't see, 
but felt, united with – strange certainty.  An edge.

A line, beating against his heart. His heart, 
broken.  Broken, open.  And the wind blew through 
(wind full of ghosts).  And he knew –
felt.  Without seeing. Broken.  It was a start.

                                               3.15.98 (Ides of March)

Ladd Observatory

Roger Williams Memorial

He finds a penny behind Shakespeare's Head

Bluejay & Henry are still in the shadows behind Shakespeare's Head.  But they're getting ready to move on - stories & conversational threads mingling now.  Bluejay shows off a little.  The tale is underway.


Hey!  Snap out of it, bro!  We gotta start sometime! 
Henry stared off behind Shakespeare's Head.
Night was painting out the horizon (with a side
stroke lead #2).  Sorry – was thinkin about another time.

Garden we had behind the apartment once, on Doyle. 
Well – we headed up that way!  Gotta fin' that cat, right? 
Bluejay quizzed him with an angled grin.  Night's
the right time for starters – anytime. But first – gotta boil

this fishpool for a minnow or two.  Henry (suddenly) 
noticed the goldfish pond there, at the apex of
the shadow of Bluejay's paralegs – a coupla sticks 
to starboard of where they sat.  Bluejay pointedly

stirred the surface with one of them, counterclockwise;
concentric ripples followed outward.  Clear as glass,
in the middle, down at the bottom, Henry saw the Janus-
face (tailside) of a copper coin, coated with greenish rust.

He could barely make out, he thought, the diagonal 
jag – of a smile?  Like a crocodile's teeth?
Or was it the debris of a galleon, sunk beneath 
engulfing waves?  No – perhaps – simply a rectangle?

Of pillars?  Bluejay laughed.  Man you squintin now! 
Whatch you seein?  Not waiting for reply, he reached 
down underwater, his arm distorting. . . sea'ch
an you shall fine! – and Lincoln's brow

plowed up, gasping for air – hey, we can use one a'these! 
We gonna be rich!  Man, it takes a lotta these sailors 
to buy juss one Penelope – an she ain't for sale!  Ha! 
He pocketed the copper with a backflip – off his knees.

The actual penny Bluejay found behind Shakespeare's Head

 The Doyle Ave. tenement

Low on Windmill Hill

The highest elevation in Providence is not actually College Hill, but a little-known tucked-away working-class corner in the far North End known as Windmill Hill.  Henry knows this because Windmill Hill was the first place he & his surreptitious girlfriend visited one night.  At that time, there was a little replica of a wooden windmill planted on the summit, in a patch of spare grass.  But on a recent stop the windmill was nowhere to be found.

At the climactic conclusion of Dante's Inferno, we see a horrible vision of Satan as a giant monster-windmill, turning in the icy wind as he chews on the bodies of the traitors.  Fraud and treason are at the very bottom of Hell.  Infidelity is a kind of treason - a betrayal & self-betrayal : thus Our Hero's secret visit to Windmill Hill for a panoramic vision of Providence is saturated with irony.


If you can find a place to stand on Windmill Hill,
in the North End, you'll hear the unspoked lie of the land. 
The upwelling wall of the East Side will bend
like the spine of a woodchip-barnacled blue whale

(beached near Paradise).  Or inverted hulk of a shipwreck. 
You'll see the rostrum of some rusted Rome there
under the branching threads of spring-green leafdom; and 
a veiled visage – quivering, arabesque.  Across her neck

like a purple thread (pearled with whale
oil lampposts) runs the line of Benefit Street.
With perpendicular and downward step, the granite 
feet of Roger Williams seem to slip from the gunwale

into the curling foam; his iron hand of grace extends 
afloat, suspended in the air, immobile, always.
Seed of appleroot remains.  Blackstone (his heart) says 
– nothing stays. Maples adagio, palmleafy – ends

twirling toward the blind king's regal purple.  Poe, 
venereal, Venetian, zigzags, loaded, down that avenue 
(his raving, rampant exit).  Overhead – against the blue-
dom of a jaybird's warning – fly! – go M and W, MW. . .

– spiralling southwest, a graphic blur, a smokescreen. 
Smogs the drainview now. But to drink the ashes of relations, 
a passionate prodigality.  Yo – gotta squint your breathins, 

bro. Damn straight – leastways bout that one, Hen.

Looking SE from Windmill Hill

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)

Bluejay's rejoinder

So Henry & Bluejay have been sitting there throughout this chapter, Bluejay mostly listening to Henry chatter about Paradise, Berkeley, LaFarge.  Bluejay starts by responding to H's original statement - that he's looking for his lost cat.

The ghostly fella has his own philosopher up his sleeve - Charles Peirce, father of "semiotics", the "pragmaticist".

Bluejay shows Henry his archaic American icon : the mysterious "eye-in-hand" - begins to disintegrate Henry's defenses, preconceptions.  This bit concludes the 3rd chapter (Once in Paradise).


The shadow of the arsenal, a dusky bottomland 
obscured the garden behind Shakespeare's Head; 
and Henry squinted toward his neighbor's muscled 
forearm.  Bluejay showed his palm – an eye-in-hand.

You been talkin up wild, man – talkin a streak, 
he said.  Meanwhiles I been havin a dream 
about your cat, yeah – Pushkin – though he seem 
more like a dog!  Barkin, barkin, freakin

out like he missed his boat – missed somethin! 
Like that UN man – the unman, or the nowoman, 
coughin his ways out of a war – a non
Ulysses X. W. Stanley Livingstone

I presume – or somekinda tale with no cat, at all!
Some greenhorn lordy manx I figure – shakin 
his asparagus at us – coulda waken
the dead if they was listenin! Hell no

ghetto line on this Onan, by golly Moses!
An lemme tell you, Henry m'boy –
that Barky guy –
he had his day! They's others – better than his!

You aint' never hearda Charlie Peirce? 
Why, he got more gold in a bag
than that dawg a'yourn could beg 
outa Queen Bess inna thousan year.

Tell you bout it.  Peirce, he pull this one 
outa his hat on Barky: say, hell,
this world – it ain't no dream – s'all
a lotta wishin walls.  Son,

things is real. Bump.  Go the rocks in yo head! 
But it ain't like we breathe it all in like some dope
ever mornin!  He say – nope 
reality is like – comin tomorrow. . . – getta bead

on that one!  Like – we gonna know – if we tries –
altogether – sometime in the future, man. 
Reality, man – it ain't even here yet!  Stan?
It's a goal, not a given, okay?  So then he says –

now dig this – okay: reality is like outside our minds. 
We move to the flow, man – we don't make it up
in the gray matter, you know?  But hup –
listen here now: reality – is like a thought. . . like signs. . .

like – it means, every which way!  You dig?
Is like a deep, steep path, man, up a mountain. 
So like okay Peirce he give Barky his ten 
pointer but he take a thousand for his rig,

man!  See what I'm sayin?  You got yo Providence, 
yo Almighty cunning shrewd helluva inviz whiz, 
maybe – but Peirce he don't insist – he's
a scientist, dig? – he prove his common sense!

So he say – comin with the future, we gonna get it. 
So like, I say – okay then: you got this 
missin-leg cat o'yourn – a little black cat – hiss!
Gone found his own private ghetto – hit

by a ark or somethin.  Lil feline exile
offa some exit ramp, I reckon – freeway 
4-leaf clover outa Q name Sue-Dan, maybe! 
Could'n even X his own name, chile –

Stuck in some goof caddy's X-by-J cubit's
road canoe, no doubt, with his leg chewed off, 
po fella.  Cross that highway line – that's tough 
onna critter!  Angels, them angles sits

heavy onna body, I tell you!  An how many 
uncountable black coons bowlin down off-color 
in that diabolical umbilical black whole, huh? 
Woman, you can spin that greeny

clover roun an roun your head until you dizzy 
but it's like the ship gone down, nobodaddy home no more –
you see them dark backside timewarp ripples flow 
downriver in some kinda jazzy

puddleclub stroke – an it gone!
You just watch them spirals fade – spread 
thin down the manmade marmalade 
canal – an it ain't comin back, hon!


Listened. Mississippi tattoo, warbling in the dusk. 
He didn't understand, but he saw – the delicate 
figurehead – the cedars, massed there – intricate, in- 
explicable!  And felt the wind blow. . . and a voice

husk, murmuring his name.  And suddenly
the pendant trees back of Shakespeare's Head
were a woman's hair.  And the voice said:
come to me, Henry.  Come back to me.


LaFarge & Berkeley : Paradise Alley

... & then inevitable as autumn comes the earthbound coda for both dreamer-visionaries (John LaFarge, George Berkeley).


In Paradise Valley, the two legs of the ridge 
stretch toward the bay – and then the bay widens
in a V (of blues, pinks, grays) to the horizon, 
and the open sea. Perihelion for LaFarge

to the very edge – the brilliant window – of his art: 
light surging through stained panes:
Church of the Ascension. Then he declines.
On earth, not Paradise.  And the hurt

remains.  Irascible, he painted out his wife 
with a second coat of mistresses.
A mind so subtle, restless,
shipwrecked in Butler Sanitarium.  Grief

at the end (after such glory).
The faint wash of surf, the distant 
rose of New Orleans Mardi Gras lent 
sad wedding music.  Newport memory.

Earth calls its own with stony wisdom.
Berkeley stalled – but truth was undeniable. 
Sailed home at last.  Bequeathed the lowly stubble 
of the search to Harvard, Yale (the kingdom

of his books).  His green-eyed vision
of a stubborn Oxford, or Bermuda Trinity 
came true somehow – so scholarly
these artless rude colonials! – legion

with universities!  And in the silence
of the library, some fresh intrepid Blackstone 
sniffs out the mazy law – no stone unturned, 
she formulates a bluenosed jurisprudence.

Gate to Butler Sanitarium, Providence

Paradise Valley

George Berkeley in Paradise

Let's review where we are, if possible.  We're in the midst of the 3rd chapter of Stubborn Grew, titled Once in Paradise.  Our dear Ant-Hero, Henry, has met his ghostly friend and guide-to-be, Bluejay, in the garden behind Shakespeare's Head (building, mental space).  The sublimity - the weirdness - the psycho-cultural pressure of this encounter, seems to have led Henry to take a defensive step back in timespace.

We are in another garden of sorts, a seaside paradise aptly named Paradise (outside Newport).  The place is a magnet for historical, intellectual, artistic visitations - Berkeley, LaFarge, Henry James - & in the background, William Blackstone, Roger Williams.

Common denominator here is vision, imagination.  From Blackstone & Williams on, we have exiles & dreamers, seekers.

One thing I was attempting here was to mount an indirect defense of poetry.  Something about the spiritual mana invested in the creative word, the inherent capacity to re-shape and re-orient our general attitude or comprehension of life, of what is.

I'm laying conceptual groundwork, in these Paradise passages, for the legendary flights of Bluejay still to come.  I'm also compiling a record, a testimony, of the special quality of Rhode Island as a place.

So we focus on Berkeley, for the moment.  His idealism; his curious proposal to found a University for native peoples on the island of Bermuda; his being marooned in Newport for two years, waiting for the British Crown to fund his project (which never happened).

I believe Berkeley also wrote a famous poem while hanging around in Newport.  "Westward the course of empire takes its way..."


Decollected six hundred abreast in London theater 
distracted young charm-schooled Berkeley from a soul 
full of food and task lighting.  Infinitely corruptible 
metropole, spendthrift of saving grace, more prouder

than prodigal – unespy'd, listening, he thought, he saw. 
South Sea Bubble.  Falling oars.  Vice and villainy 
have by degrees grown reputable among us;
our infidels have passed for fine gentlemen, and

our venal traitors for men of sense. . . we have made a jest 
of public spirit, and cancelled all respect for whatever 
our laws and religion repute sacred. . . The answer 
was – Bermuda.  Draw firm line round island birdnest –

go for broke to King Uncle George!  Go for the rich gold
and begin again, sagely, in an English boat, at the beginning: 
12 learned men, 12 months a year. . .1200 Native Indians 
convertible – bonded Bermudian, freemen – sold!

Set sail!  Doubtful doubloons nailed (promissory) to the mast,
jovial Berkeley (famillionaire) embarked the watery maze 
for American Bottomland.  Irish – purpled with blurred glaze 
across the waters.  O visionary, Theoretical heart – last

best Empire west of the rocks of Paradise!  His toss 
thrown down – his line – anchored in eloquence –
truly a sheep's gamble – or shepherd's prescience! 
His line, out of Dublin, nailed to the cross-

tree – golden, eloquent, equatorial. . . line built on sand. 
X marks the spot.  Ideal location for that invisible 
educational vortex in one New World  (a terrible
duty is born).  Dreaming.  In RI.  In Rhode Island.


Aloft there on shale shelf, in cave mouth, 
Berkeley's eyes drifted out to sea.
A pair of dicey gypsy barks
gambling on the shepherding waves.

You have your materialist peasants 
nattering pedantically along with your 
libertine idle blank-eyed statuettes O 
London – and this jovial pleasant

noncholeric collared Irish bookish Dean 
waves the Vico key in your face.  And waits. 
Waits for your double crosscheck, mates –
your doubloon that never comes – keening,

why have you forsaken me?  In RI?  Heaven's 
not some dull neuteronian mechanical.
It's providential – and recreational!
A dream, again! – again! – Bermudian!

Whitehall, Berkeley's home in Paradise (Newport)

Berkeley's Seat, a short walk from Whitehall

Ocean State (intermission)

I believe the previous post was not one of my best.  I am working too quickly, under deadline.  After about 45 years in Rhode Island, I'm moving with family back home to Minneapolis.

Poems are my legacy.  It's what I've been doing since the 1980s, when not working or stumbling through the daily round.

My birthday, May 29th, is actually Rhode Island Statehood Day.  They used to have a postage stamp celebrating that day (not that I'm featured on the stamp!).

I did have about six poems published on the op-ed page of the paper of record (Providence Journal).  W.B. Yeats also published essays there under special assignment, in the 1890s (about Ireland and Irish culture).

So this project gives me a chance to buzz around & take pictures before I leave, and to reconsider & share one of the most loco of local poems I've written in this Ocean State.

Come to think of it, one of my best poems is very short.  This also appeared in the Journal, featured in Tom Chandler's weekly poetry column.  It was written after seeing a grand moon one night, hanging low over the beach in Narragansett.  Rhode Island's motto is "Ocean State".  Ocean State is featured on the RI license plate.  I like to think it's a little reminder of my poem, carried front & back on every vehicle, over every pothole.


Here the waters gather along the shore.
They meet the land breathing in foam,
and roll the sleepy pebbles and shells
back into long sand waves as before.

Our moon, casting her antique spells.
A motionless iris in the whale’s eye
of the sea, her unspeakable name
sinks to the bottom of lonely wells.

Her low whispers frame the deserted dome.
Her light covers the circus floor.
And she lifts, with one nocturnal sigh,
the heaving swells in a silver comb.

Atlantic Ocean, from Berkeley's Seat