a third villanelle

the new iMac (with the unbelievably huge screen showing this very document)

I have been going through my poetry files, both physical and on the computer. Here on the new iMac that’s an issue because transferring here meant my arrival at System X (Leopard for me, 10.5.8), and jumping up from system 9 in a hurry caused me to transfer a whole lot of document files without extension suffixes, leaving the poor computer perceiving them as Unix files, executable as code in Terminal, not as WordPerfect, Word or AppleWorks text files (.wpd, .doc or .cwk). So I must either run between the old computer now in our basement and this one with a list of file types copied from the old one or just guess while sitting up here what suffix to add (which does interestingly often work). I had word-processed more of my poems than I had remembered (perhaps much to your dismay, faithful readers).

What do you know? I had forgotten I wrote as a villanelle this poem—arising from a one-night stand (would that be the right word? We didn’t think of such things then, back in the Seventies) with a young woman who rescued me one other collegiate (winter) night, when my aforementioned first big romance had in fact ended for certain and with finality. I found overnight shelter in the lounge (I wonder how illegal that was) of another girl’s dorm. The next day, she and a visiting high school friend of hers let me drive them to the Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines, where I first found and bought Robert Graves’s The White Goddess. Later this blackhaired Irish beauty accompanied me to a community theater cast party in the woods down by the Skunk River (how romantic is that?) in the summertime…

I guess this is what comes of youth, broken dreams of some kind, romance and The White Goddess while one is living entirely on his own for the first time in Ft. Madison, Iowa, attempting somewhat unwillingly to become a teacher. I don’t think I wrote anything else quite as slavishly devoted to Graves’s ideas in the book—so much so that many of the references may make no sense at all to the uninitiated. Sorry about that (you could try clicking on the first White Goddess link above and checking out the Wikipedia content—which I just may have to edit, knowing more than whoever wrote it). However, I still think the poem sounds so darn cool.

Poe thought poems should be about ninety percent sound and ten percent meaning, which is why so many of his seem so simplistic in content (some, not all). Sound over sense can go too far in the other direction, though; probably I have.

Interestingly, in the last stanza, because I wanted the appearance (also an important poetic feature for me) of all those “c”s in the poem, I chose to spell Kabbalah in the weirdest (old-fashioned) way I would never do since. Also, reading it, I can see that this biographical introduction, which may truly impart too much information, might not be necessary. There’s more than one girl in my mind (or heart) in there…

So here is a surprising third villanelle.

Irish Honey, Ninety Proof

Kiss-cleft and raven-tressed: elder mare’s blood moon
joked conception sanctified, lit the stars that are your eyes,
wanton soft and silklike steel, Cretan cold, a celtic rune.

Solstice birth: twelve reeds before your naked feet were strewn
for you to trample, dexterous-sinister patterned ancient lies,
kiss-cleft and raven-tressed. Elder mare’s blood moon,

a horny halo, frames your hair, goddess of too soon―
crimson painted lancet nails, lips which need no dyes,
wanton soft and silklike steel, Cretan cold, a celtic rune.

Molten laughter, liquid love, freezes, severs every boon
and slips, an onyx knife, into breasts you touch with ice,
kiss-cleft, raven-tressed elder mare’s blood moon.

Tonguetip tastes tidbits by conversation’s scalpels hewn;
scythes of hawthorn are your words, wicked, witching wise,
wanton soft and silklike steel, Cretan cold, a celtic rune.

White one, hear this reedy sealike cabbalistic tune,
accept my sacrificial haploid blood, and rise,
kiss-cleft, raven-tressed elder mare’s blood moon,
wanton soft and silklike steel, Cretan cold, a celtic rune.

12, 23 April 1976

I really do just leap right over any immediate sense in this one (for not the only time in my poetry). I hope the sound does carry a reader through.  I could easily fill a year with old poems, so I hope the introductory and concluding remarks (rather randomly Dantesque—in the manner of La Vita Nuova—now that I get self-conscious about it) add to the interest and make reading these posts worthwhile.

The White Goddess in its old cover (the version that I bought back in 1975)

Hmmm, thinking to emulate Dante, I have already given a vague biographical background (really vague, but I didn’t want the title of this post to actually be valid). Maybe I should make some analytical remarks. I already hashed out what a villanelle is (and Wikipedia tells you much more). I’ll refer back to sound effects.

The vowels are meant to kind of flow, and the liquid consonants (“r” and “l” and “w” mainly in this poem, also “s” and soft “c”  and the nasals—“m” and “n”—and “v”) keep the riverlike flood of sound going, along with “h” . The plosives (hard “c” or “k,” “t”) work like rocks, creating rapids, with “d” and “b”—both plosives—intermediate for me.  As for the situation/story of the poem, the goddess is first dancing (or more realistically walking), then laughing and talking. The verse is fleshed out (ha!) with some description of her eyes, hair and finger(nails). She laughs cuttingly and her remarks discomfit the speaker, who would like to become her lover. She is also, if it needs demonstration, the poetic Muse, à la Graves.The last stanza gets indelicate in its intent. Too much information?

For more depth in meaning, try reading the Graves book all the way through (and I prefer the older cover that I scanned and reproduce here).

Looking at the photo I just shot for the introduction, that is my actual work area visible (you can examine the clutter and mess in detail by clicking on the photo). You can see the copy of the book I reviewed yesterday (although I haven’t written that review yet: creating this post to save for future use was easier). And that’s a poem on the reading stand that will appear (and is strangely connected with the unwritten book review, too). My mixer board (which I bought for myself at the same time as the one for the school’s Andrew Comment program) helps me digitize old LPs and cassette tapes for the iPod (although I haven’t done that for months now).

You can see Janet in two really old photos (is that Eighties hair visible?) that used to sit on my desk at school; she’s right there behind the gargoyle at the top. The little skeleton guy used to sit on some of the computers at school, too; he’s a memento from a fall play, Boo! Thirteen Tales of Halloween. Above the computer (and I remain amazed how Apple gets a complete computer inside a screen, no matter how big) on the right you can see the physical folder of poems. Since I mentioned the kabbalah, that’s a laminated diagram of the Sefirot rising from the yellow, overstuffed pencil holder on the left of the iMac. And having mentioned it in an earlier post last fall, the big stapler is sitting next to Janet and the gargoyle up on top.

There’s a lot more, but I think I am overindulging myself now. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

2 thoughts on “TMI

  1. I have a feeling the reason your new Mac doesn’t know anything about those old files is due to the fact that the creator codes didn’t get affixed to the files (I bet you used a USB flash drive to move them).

    Assuming OS X 10.6 didn’t make too many radical changes to its handling of creator codes (I think it changed how it handled default application opening, but without an extension I think it’ll still respect a file’s creator code), you can erase your flash drive and have its file system be Mac OS, then run it downstairs and copy the files again. I suspect they’ll then open with whatever program the iMac can find which can open files made with the now obsolete word processor you used.

    • I should have sought your wise insight long ago, Aaron. I did in fact use a flash drive, probably formatted Windows for use with Janet’s laptop—knowing that my school Macs, being Macs not Wintels, would mount just about anything. I’ll take your advice and see how that works! Thanks. (This blog is providing unforeseen benefits, at least for me.)

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