Here is a little poem I donʼt even remember writing. I found it scrawled in pencil on the backside of a different typed poem, so (I think) I took the date below from the formal one on the primary side, which means it may have been written later, even significantly later than the date indicated. Even so, the idea expressed sounds like what I was considering when still a first- or second-year teacher in Ft. Madison. I select it now primarily as a stopgap to ensure a post for today, as my Census training continues to keep my busy. I am also making choices these days, too, however, so in that sense this poem seems appropriate as well. The verse was untitled in pencil where I found it, but Iʼll call it…
Choose: left or right or up or down.
Decisions fork our lives apart, and all
that might have been is lost: it might
have been, and, selecting, was not chosen.
Pick: the roads diverge, and you are not
Colossus to bestride them both at once
(fence straddling castrates), and so
you must leave all that unknown and lost.
Never ask what might have been,
for then you wonder, and wondering imagine
(taste, touch, smell, see and hear) and, foolish,
lost it all again; foolish lose it all.
in pencil on “Look Here” typescript
1975 / early 1976?
Not much here, really: choices are hard to make, and as Robert Frost had already indicated much more profoundly (in “The Road Not Taken,” on which I have a very strange but prize-winning not-exactly-an-essay of analysis and interpretation which should appear here one of these days soon), it can hurt to choose, especially if you keep wondering about your lost alternative(s) rather than enjoying the reality you have created by your decision. This isnʼt the only poem I ever wrote advising my (imaginary?) self to decide and stick with a choice. So am I realizing something about myself? (And if so, just what?)
I like the unremarkable small classical allusion to Rhodes (how coincidentally appropriate with last weekʼs movie reviews and literary criticism — still unfinished in my mind). I am pleased with my younger self that I didnʼt let the reference overwhelm the poem, but I do believe that the image of the Colossus of Rhodes bestriding the harbor in ancient time does inform the poemʼs otherwise pretty simplistic concept. Humans are not divine, we have got to take what we chose and live with it. (Perhaps one quality of divinity is an ability to live in multiple realities… Hmmm, a story idea there?)
On a truly literary note, one of my favorite writers, L. Sprague de Camp, whom I have mentioned before, wrote a very fine historical novel on the construction of the Colossus, The Bronze God of Rhodes, very well informed by de Campʼs historical research and knowledge of engineering. I spent these first years of this century/millennium acquiring all those old historicals by de Camp — having enjoyed The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate since it was reprinted in paperback by Lancer Books (a fine, cheap house from which I received lots of early science fiction and fantasy — especially fantasy — reading experiences, including my introduction to Robert E. Howard [and de Camp] and Conan and the books emphasized in the Wikipedia article, if you click the Lancer Books link). Those Frank Frazetta covers lured me into making choices that have shaped my imagination if not my life. By the way, I continue with my own sword-and-sorcery story (-ies) set in medieval Moorish Spain — Sepharad.
©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.