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Henry James in the Heart of the City

by
 We have a small sculpture of Henry James on our terrace in New York City.
Nothing would surprise him.
The beast in the jungle was what he saw-- Edith Wharton's obfuscating older brother.
.
.
He fled the demons of Manhattan for fear they would devour his inner ones (the ones who wrote the books) & silence the stifled screams of his protagonists.
To Europe like a wandering Jew-- WASP that he was-- but with the Jew's outsider's hunger.
.
.
face pressed up to the glass of sex refusing every passion but the passion to write the words grew more & more complex & convoluted until they utterly imprisoned him in their fairytale brambles.
Language for me is meant to be a transparency, clear water gleaming under a covered bridge.
.
.
I love his spiritual sister because she snatched clarity from her murky history.
Tormented New Yorkers both, but she journeyed to the heart of light-- did he? She took her friends on one last voyage, through the isles of Greece on a yacht chartered with her royalties-- a rich girl proud to be making her own money.
The light of the Middle Sea was what she sought.
All denizens of this demonic city caught between pitch and black long for the light.
But she found it in a few of her books.
.
.
while Henry James discovered what he had probably started with: that beast, that jungle, that solipsistic scream.
He did not join her on that final cruise.
(He was on his own final cruise).
Did he want to? I would wager yes.
I look back with love and sorrow at them both-- dear teachers-- but she shines like Miss Liberty to Emma Lazarus' hordes, while he gazes within, always, at his own impenetrable jungle.

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