LookHere

Look Here

If you should, searching, ever leave me,

then you must run very quick away,

for without your presence I am not free,

and I would pursue you day on day,

fettered by your desertion, seeking we.

There is no gladness, never play

in your absence; all joys are transitory:

I must know you to hold the world at bay.

Because you slipped your blood beneath my mind,

where deformed childhood strangled life and eyes,

and lovingly unwove the knots, never be unkind,

for you alone negate, defy that universe of sighs.

If you should ever search to leave me,

remember, you will unspeak who makes me be.

from a revised typescript (edited in pencil and black ink)

2 October 1975 / 14 December 1975

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

Of Gas & Precipitation

Presented, to your dismay, sans contrition…

A Poem

He blew two sequent farts
of such obnoxious distinktion
that the effluviatic foetor
malingering in the domestic atmosphere
drove him out of doors.

Yea, verily, even into the rain
that, proverbial Bardolotriessence,
raineth quotidiantic,
quondamnically.

— Tuesday, 29 April 2014

20140429-095849.jpg

from an auroral episode

I wrote a poem this morning — renovative experience, nearly novel for this old man.

Writing poetry interests me…  I composed words in my thoughts striding southwestward (some of which still occur more or less in what I merely recall later with uncertainty), seeking colors and description for what I halfwittedly observed.

Pity now that I had no camera to coldly record what my warm eyes saw, because then I could have a decent photo to include here. This (pretty) photo I found has too few clouds but has some of the effects correct (far too orange for my experience, however, as readers will perceive for yourselves).

But the words come first.

I wonder if this is the real last draft…

Aubade in retrospect


rags of cloud,
dark
bluegray and crumpled
like fat ash frozen,
empurple the western sky,
a vault of frayed slate
violet
shredding to ultramarine overhead

eastern cloudfringes,
puffy
refraction-fronted
blush,
pinked and bright
crumpled rosewhite beachheads

That moment was
already past
then, now astray —
the pink prows
of those tattered cloudsails
neon white

and the rest
to the west
declined to gunmetal, grim.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Mothers Day

Having spent Saturday with Janetʼs folks in our annual Motherʼs Day celebration (involving a wicked lunch on really good but caloric and often fatty foods and a shopping trip for flowers to be planted over the next several weekends, the restaurants and now the greenhouses varying over the years), I want to take a short space to commemorate my own absent parents, particularly, of course today, my mom. I lost both parents in just over a year back in 1982 and 1983, my mother holding on through cancer to attend our wedding (The Lovely One and mine) only to succumb a few months later, over Labor Day weekend (better known as Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant). My father followed at Christmastime a year later, the victim of his own handiness with automobiles, sadly. As everyone tends to say, I still miss them both and each.

This is a poem I wrote while my mother was still alive, but I donʼt think she ever saw it (I never was real quick to share my verse in the old days, particularly among my family).

My mother lives on in many peopleʼs thoughts and memories, but I have enshrined some of her in parts of Aunt Sarai in Stars in Heaven, not the least the love and attention that character devotes to my surrogate in the story.

I see it as a mate to the poem I once wrote thinking my father had suffered a heart attack or a stroke… And itʼs my post for this Motherʼs Day, entitled…

Motherʼs Day

Body wracked with quick endless motion,
knife-filled electric nervewind tears cold-keen
through intricate path-patterns, exorcises me:

human hurricaneʼs wailing implosion
shreds, slices, splatters, cracks controlled emotion.

Autumn iceblasts sleet forgotten hollows clean
and scream away warmth of rational debris,
reveal me bare to air’s acid corrosion.

The insincere wind shrieks silently within,
racing a hundred burnt-end lazy notions
like splintered leaves spat down empty boulevards,
slapped and snapped, shattered epileptic shards.

The disease of existence takes no potions
but that girl-breath brush in youth. The restʼs just sin.

Written on Mothers Day

14 May 1978

What do we know? A little consideration and a bit of serendipity resulted in some interpretation on this piece, tomorrow.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Forgotten Inspiration

This one is for Janet, mostly because I wrote it about her once upon a time. And also because as of today, she has survived the big birthday party that I mentioned a while back…

The setting is our first apartment together, the one on maple Street that my father enjoyed so much (and which I donʼt think my mother ever visited).

forgotten inspiration

The house resounds with your noises
(and sometimes still your silences)
subtle often but also definite—
floorboards creaking with footsteps
doors opening and closing
upstairs down
stair steps too
running water, coffeemaker gurgles

Found in a notebook 1/10/99

7/6/96

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Sorceress

I have had this sort-of-a-poem on ice (meaning a “Draft” here in WordPress world) for at least a year now. With nothing better to post for today, letʼs drag it from its frozen waiting room into the light of digital day. Thirty-six years on.

Weʼre in the hangover period after the Bardʼs Birthday (yesterday), so a bit of verse, however inept and/or bad, seems vaguely in order. The Lovely One and I are celebrating her parentsʼ anniversary (also yesterday) with them today, so maybe a touch of romance is in order as well.

Besides, itʼs been a very long time since I posted a poem.

Sorceress

What subtle secret magic have you worked on me,

dark like dementia, as savage as dreams,
to take all my wonder from being alone and free?

You’ve possessed my heart. I’m void except for screams
of loneliness that shred the armor of life’s routine:
hopes rust, scales that philosophy will never clean
from the baffles of my imprisoned spirit’s schemes.
You have worked the witchcraft which makes you me.

I have no complex incantation which will wean
me, anguished, from your tenderhooks to liberty.
Your spells are potent: you mystically demean
my solitude with this amoral sweet wizardry.

What mephistopholean magic have you worked on me,
now that you are free and I am we?

obviously an aftermath of “Busy Music”

23 September 1975

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

Reprint

And the new year has arrived (optimistically, on my part, anticipating no nuclear holocaust or meteoric impacts or other unpleasantness of any other sort intervening between the time of composition for me and its arrival in the dark of night just after the new year embarks with you). I probably should apologize for yesterdayʼs wasteland of woe. I also have a poem. I printed it earlier here, last year, but as its subject is the turning of the year, recounting a few events from December 31 and January 1 (from nearly thirty years ago), I thought it might make an appropriate statement for the dawn of this new decade as well.

At the time we lived in the little apartment upstairs in the green house on Maple Street.

Ornithomancy

Birdomen, speak me your meaning:

yesterday you arrived
in dusklight
around nightfall,

circling with silent wings
to find your place
in our fir tree,

sweeping to stop a third of the way
from the top, hidden
among the spiraling branches;

and orbited beneath the tree—
me seeking to spot your plumage,
invisible in the foliage,

until my noise and prying eyes
sent you skittish, wings spread
crimson against the dying light,

southwestward behind the garage,
and gone, a cardinal sign
by sunset at December’s end.

And today, new year, my wife finds you
herself, outside the window,
but you fly off when I peer out,

a rush of red speeding southwest away,
just a glimpse of scarlet
to incarnadine the rust and greenishgrey

of this sullen, cold and troubled day.
Now upon the turning of the year you come,
coloring with fire the Janustime.

1 January 1983

No great shakes here, just a poem. And no, I donʼt plan for this year to be a celebration of old posts (although I do anticipate shortening my average length when posts appear), but I like this poemʼs delicate optimism and tenderness for this new year, looking both backwards and ahead. May your 2011 be colored bright, too.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

snowfall

Some years winter comes later (well, later than today anyway). I had dictated this poem and transferred it to hold as a draft on WordPress a long time ago (probably March). I do believe it resulted from a real event (just how real you will have to read for yourself). In those days, there was no pit of Gasser Creosote Gas (which they just renewed on Wednesday with a brand-new truckload of oozing black logs), just a long meadow/field down to the little farmhouse by the distant highway, a lovely vista, especially sometimes when it filled with snow.

Twelve years ago…

snowfall

Like fog

the snow falls.

I’d missed its start,

and suddenly,

peeing,

looking out the bathroom window over the stool,

I thought that fog was settling

from the north

until I made out individual flakes

descending thickly, fast,

against the darkness of tree shapes

in yards down the hill.

2° below zero.

Has winter come at last?

Composed at the computer – 3:20 PM

Wednesday, December 30, 1998

Somehow, perhaps itʼs the snowfall that I should be shoveling away in about three hours time, it seemed appropriate to finally publish this little bit of non-verse today. At least it was a lot colder then than now. (“Then” with an e = a word indicating an event or time from the past. “Than” with an a = a word creating a contrast, or comparison, between two states or situations. I tire of reading one for the other on the internet. I really do. Tire.)

And, of course, WordPress is making it “snow” on the blog through the month of December, ending January 4. (Thanks, Dave, for the shovel joke earlier. Did you have to be so gol-durned prophetic?)

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

Bright Visitor

 

the version I spent ten minutes locating on the shelves to make sure I got the title and editorʼs name correct here today

I have probably written too much connected to my new-found knowledge/experience of ocular migraines, but I remain fascinated, so you get to suffer, although not so visually as yesterdayʼs irritating image. In particular, I keep pondering, when I give myself time and opportunity to ponder anything except the November novel (on which I achieved 40,000 words as of yesterday, just before I started working on this post) and the chores/activities Janet wants or needs to have me complete (by far the most difficult is to dispose of my old computers, which as she correctly indicates, have been taking up too much space too messily downstairs for a year and a half; the other is the last raking of the yard, which I intended for last weekend but the wind and the rain prevented, even yesterday). However, I was especially considering what earlier events in my consciousness might have presaged or been earlier manifestations of the migraine aura.

Of course, I was also thinking about Judah, and how I can make use of this phenomenon in developing his character (exactly as I said yesterday). And that set of thoughts reminded me of some poems I had written back in the early Eighties when I was most deeply engaged in my Judaical studies, as I thought of them, that so alarmed my mother that I might be contemplating conversion to Judaism (which I wasnʼt, at least not seriously). From some early readings in and about Kabbalah, my then-poetic self had immediately invented some pseudo-mystical poems, particularly after reading A Big Jewish Book edited by Jerome Rothenberg. The unoriginality and derivative nature of my poems goes without mention, but I guess their very existence proves that even such hardhearted skeptics as I have had (sometimes still do) moments of spiritual quest.

The one I am going to include today is meant to suggest an eruption of the supernatural, the unknowable unsayable impossible deity (or something — which is a lot like Judah) into daily life. And that corresponds well enough with the supernatural sensation I had about the ocular migraines until they were dragged down to earth and given a local habitation and name (or in other terms, alluding to another poet, pinned and labeled like a bug in an exhibit).


Bereshith

Bright presence                  beating viscous air with burnished wings

terrifies tepid binocular sight,                  twisting the tarnished photons

of a nowunsubstantial electric lamp                   Leaps all luminescent

and thunderous THERE.                  These jelly eyes throb,

bloodshot; a booming                  resounds behind baffled retinae.

Rainbows wreck                  reaping spectral echoing radiation

along dissolving daemonized neurons.                  Disgust drapes

immarrowed breaking bones                   bakes and bruises flesh

Claps, cracks,                  quakes. Crushed

tendons, traitorous,                   tear like taffy frozen

on a glarehard glaze,                  greencoward grate —

ultraMinnesota subarctic snow                   shining sleek and sterile

and dumb in deathwhite endDecembersʼs solid day.

Bright presence breaks,                     battering out breath.

with thanks to Jerome Rothenberg, Jewish Poets of Medieval Spain, Chaim Potok somehow, and Gershom Scholem

20 August 1980

You can quickly see that I was at the same time influenced by and experimenting with Anglo-Saxon meter adapted into modern English, thanks to my Advanced English classʼs annual study of Beowulf, thus the alliteration and the visible gap for the caesura. Over the top and incorrect as well, but it kind of fits with the artificiality of the poem and the concept. Likewise, my reading in physics (recent and continuing at that time — and now, as I have really enjoyed the two issues of Scientific American that have arrived this month) makes its presence known.

The bright visitor seems pretty clearly angelic rather than a Being higher up the supernatural pecking order (but the seeds are laid for my rendition of Ayn-Sof), and the speaker is struck dumb by the invasion of the ethereal into his mundane existence. The vision is overwhelming, perhaps destructive (temporarily, it certainly is), which today suggests an interesting unconscious set of links leading to my invention of Judah this past winter. All the images intend to echo and suggest extreme and even terrifying brightness.

The poem reminds me that in high school, after a unit on Black Lit (I think in Advanced Placement English, I think student-taught), when we were asked to write an imitative poem expressing what we had read in the unit, I channeled Richard Wright (I think perhaps him in particular) and poured forth such a stream of righteous wrath I may have scared the college senior. If only I had taken the cue then of the importance of Method acting in writing…

But I donʼt really think “Bereshith” is a good poem, perhaps an interesting experiment, definitely a stage in my thoughts and feelings (and imagination). On the other hand, just the day before, inspired by a drive home from (I believe) Mt. Pleasant and Iowa City, I wrote what I consider a better poem, almost a twin, which lacks a title.

the day before

Silver shatters in the trees

hidden on the backsides

of the unassuming

leaves,

shining with the windy

sunlight

on sultry afternoons:

 

bright silver in the greens,

like a promise for the chosen,

a beginning which both baffles

and conceives.

The human eye redeems.

 

Quaking silver remarks of needs

uncertain, abruptly melting:

break traces through the heart

like meteorites on heaven.

 

Unminted silver graces trees

in quivers and surceasing —

the breathing of the earth

and a soulʼs screams.

Untitled Poem

20 August 1980

The ending is weakly adolescent, but the poem is almost exactly on the same subject, just focused onto a simple natural phenomenon, the silvery undersides of leaves showing brightly in the wind on a sunny summer day. Noticing now that I hid my allusions (particularly to Potok) unquietly, I donʼt recall today if there was a conscious connection to Robert Graves and The White Goddess with all the symbolic trees therein, or not. But I do wonder if the visit from which I was returning wasnʼt the time my mother expressed her doubts about my religious reading in those days. I hope I reassured her instead of playing coy (which clearly, reading from the series of overtly Judaized poems — each addressed to the “God of Israel” — that I wrote later in the same week, was how I felt). She would die, at Labor Day, just two years later.

And I rather forgot where I started today. I think the “fragile” vision that I mentioned yesterday and maybe a refraction of the aura shine out in both of these.

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

Creative Stall

I havenʼt got a good update to anything creative that some of you might expect on a Sunday. Thereʼs nothing new outside my head on “Mantorville,” not a clear angle for the next Daniel bit for Stars in Heaven (although there is a whole section from the boykidʼs point of view thatʼs been done forever), and I started handwriting a new Søren-and-Judah story (the direct sequel/continuation of “Mistakes by Moonlight”) instead of getting a third bit of editing and revision completed for today (or any more of it digitized — too busy becoming Picasso/getting a new furnace/subbing last Friday/wasting my time arguing against ignorant authoritarian Rightist politics on Facebook/reading/idling).

However, it has been raining around here this weekend, starting Friday night into early Saturday morning. So I will take refuge in a bit of verse I had wanted to put up for autumn, but with our month-long dry spell this year, ending Friday night, this antique hasnʼt seemed quite right. And, as I have pretty vivid memories of the weekend around which this not-quite-a-poem came to be (mostly because theyʼre recorded in the poem), I know itʼs not cold or dreary enough to really qualify for a revisit. However, I donʼt have anything else, and I really have wanted to post this one (or at least have an excuse for typing it up on the computer).

It came from my first autumn in Maquoketa, in the (probably underheated) cute little house on Emma Court (has anyone noticed that I used that street as a character in the Queztal County story?), which was evidently a cooler and definitely wetter autumn than this one has been. I was sitting at home alone in the quaint house, rain drizzling, feeling tired and old and apparently very chilly as I listened to I-donʼt-know-which-Bob-Dylan-album on the stereo. It might have been Street Legal, but I am pretty sure (especially having just checked on Wikipedia) that came out later, the next spring, and was new when I played it almost ceaselessly on the drive to and back from the 1978 International Thespian Festival with three unwitting high-school girls on lawn chairs in the back of my blue Ford van (sorry about that, ladies, in retrospect). Much more likely the soundtrack for the poem(s) was Blood on the Tracks, which would fit perfectly.

The actual trigger for composition was work-weariness and the earliest sensation of arthritis in my poor overworked and enervated fingers (much more noticeable any day of any week in any season nowadays), which you may easily observe in the second part/poem/stanza…

Shades of Gray: Autumn Rain

I

And so the hectic day subsides
into a slimy chillgray evening
whispering winter in my knuckles and my knees.

II

The cracks between my bones
forget the lambent tones of electric lights
and listen: the sleety whispers of the wind
keen autumn autumn autumn winter night.

III

Dylanesque atmospheres suggesting
ice inside these fingertips
and fogs behind my eyes;
the coals of existence whisper
out in the leaf-drenching drizzle.

15 September 1977

Not a lot for exegesis here. The three poems or verses or stanzas (I donʼt know why I numbered them — probably an Eliot-influence) are essentially moody description (intended to mean description that creates a mood).

The date is a Thursday night (I really do love being able to check anything in a heartbeat or ninety on the internet; I probably would be a good victim/consumer for a smartphone or an iPod Touch), so my notion it was a weekend is wrong (unless I am recalling the typing process, having first composed longhand — no idea if that was the way it went, either). However, that would explain the “hectic day” falling quiet in the beginning, a long day after school, and in those days for Andrew, church night (meaning no extracurricular activities in the evening, thus no play practice) was on Thursday. So I would have been at home in my then-TVless house. The arthritis-or-whatever-you-like sensations are there in the close of that verse and grow worse/stronger in the next little poem.

Why my aching joints forget the warm “tones” of electric lights rather than the warm sun is probably me trying to avoid the too-obvious image, and life at school really is ruled by artificial illumination, especially in these shortened days of fall and winter. The final line of number II is mere sounding rhythm (but for lots of poets, say Poe, thatʼs what itʼs all supposed to be about) and the conscious mind of the speaker falling asleep, maybe. The susurrus of the storm/cold rainfall outdoors probably shouldnʼt use so many m sounds.

Number III brings the music on the stereo to the front (so Seventies of my Seventies self). And the speaker falls asleep? (That sounds so trite that perhaps youʼd be better off without the explication…) But autumnal weariness and chill extinguishes whatever passes for energy or life in our speaker.

Of course, I feel this one works as a companion piece to “Dry Leaves” written in the same location a year later (sorry, Rod and Dave, I couldnʼt go so obvious as either of your suggestions; I really do feel poetry shouldn’t be quite that literal). Or maybe I should chose to call that other one “Burnt Fires”? “Fallʼs Cinders”? “Faded Flakes”?

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