“Two Steps Back”

Hereʼs a poem, probably inspired the second major girlfriend of my adult life, as I have not posted anything even pseudo-romantic from that period. Considering the early date (for that relationship, which actually bloomed later that same summer), this one is only a fantasy item. Perhaps that explains the silly/simple wordplay  — although I still enjoy the sound effects and flow of the whole thing, particularly those sonically enthused final lines. Itʼs not much of a poem overall, but some of the phrases have stuck in my head over the decades, so I have come to feel it has a little quality to it (probably very little, but I am not claiming to be much of a poet, after all; thatʼs why I throw them away here).

The red and gold allude to her appearance, at least to my imagination. Janet has commented on my youthful weakness for redheads (in her terms). Except for the sound of it, I am not sure about the semi-Shakespearean “O of gold” unless I have simply forgotten some event in life or a ring that she possessed. (Ironically, or supernaturally, I did make an uncomfortable and inappropriate proposal later. I have been intrigued/spooked by how my poems have sometimes sort-of predicted future events, but as a realist chalk that up to coincidence, usually.) As a writer, I undoubtedly felt it was time/line enough to return to the golden imagery/ideas.  — Whatʼs missing in this poem, although almost omnipresent in all later ones inspired by her presence, is music (thus the title, however incongruous  — and Iʼll let each of you discover the allusion), the most important aspect of the person who introduced me to Traffic (that very summer) and enjoyed my homemade 8-track tapes of The Brandenburg Concertos in my van (later on in time). Even prophetic poetry misses all the important stuff all the time.

The biographical elements of this epoch get slightly uncomfortable for me, as this woman was younger than me by several years. She and a girlfriend (who my imagination seized upon as being “silver gold” and whose presence lay behind the ladder-master poem I put up a while back) took advantage of then then-Iowa law, permitting eighteen-year-olds to drink, to get me, so elderly at 22, to go out with them several times that summer, enjoying too much sangria at The Ground Round in Burlington, since closed, back when Ground Rounds had peanut shells on the floor of the lobby and gave you free popcorn. Both girls shook my fancy and provided me imaginary material for verse and romance (and this particular poem may have begun its existence referring to silver and gold rather than red and gold… Such are the embarrassing ambiguities of mixing life and art, such as it is/was). By the end of that summer I was comfortably enraptured simply with red-gold. The next summer staff reduction moved me to Maquoketa, and by November 1977, our relationship, although enshrined in fiction, was over. We got back together temporarily about a year after that, thus some lengthy Friday night drives to her new college in Indiana, to which I have referred before. And after that spasm of interest we both headed for our real lives, me meeting Janet for certain (we had encountered each other earlier) in 1981, and this lady to finer things (including my preferred university that dumped me with other excess freshmen back in ʼ71, thus promoting my attendance at Iowa Wesleyan) and greater successes than mine.

On the other hand (referring far back to the notion that I revised this to change its subject/muse), I think what I really did was to revise this poem to suit the other girl, temporarily, insincerely and unsuccessfully during June, and then threw those versions, if there ever were any, out. I do still have some silver-gold poems left; perhaps I should pair some of the “rival” verses some time.

The title came later, part of the process of revision, which for my poetry has been important but not always complicated, reflective or substantial. With my Sixties/Seventies ideas of Romanticism influencing my writing, I generally got something down and then stuck with what I had to assume was some kind of inspiration if I liked what I had written at all. The revision thus became relatively minor fiddling, in most cases, with word choices here and there, adjustments for rhythm, or line division on a free verse item like this (and/or even disguising regular meter and rhyme by breaking the lines otherwise than first settled, as I did with “Freyaʼs Steel” and some others). Once the rhythm and sound were set, all I usually did was tinker on the typewriter. Unfortunately, that same technique led easily into my playwriting and (although less simply) fiction. I futz with things but have not been a huge reviser, not usually “re-seeing” what I have written from the ground up.

This particular poem only ever had a few words adjusted. And I ignored the spellchecker in digitizing this (and other poems) to maintain my own invented words. The closing colon came relatively early to the poem, and although a little too cute, works well enough for me.

Auric Rose

actual red gold, appropriately Asian…

Golden girl — red gold, gold gold, perfect as gold,

bright and beautiful — fool’s gold

befuddling pedantic minds:

effulgent fragile speculations interspersed

and seeded well with H. Bosch and Adam Smith collaborated

visions of damnation, and of course

calamity set in a perfect O of gold

hair gold, firegold, aurulent virulent, sunguilt goldiferous

buxom bullion beautiful —

lovely as sherry and warm as so:

16 May 1976

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

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