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.

Raking Leaves (a contest)

I recently promised you all another poem, and today the threat comes real. I had thought I wrote this little piece one day during the autumn of my first year in Maquoketa. However, I should have realized I was too busy facing a crumbling long-distance relationship, doomed to terminate on my 24th birthday in November of that year, and settling into and living with my new job at Andrew Community School to take time to perform such a mundane, suburban twentieth-century task as raking the leaves in the yard (we would just leave that for my aged years here in a house the bank actually still owns, but weʼre working on that death-rental — i.e. mortgage). However, I had a longer search than I had first planned through my folder of old poems to find this rough gem (sarcastic, but I do like the poem somehow). It actually comes from the following year, a bit later in October than currently we are.

This post is labeled as a contest because the poem is untitled (I went through phases of either titling or not naming my verse). This one got no monicker. And I don’t think thatʼs fair to this little bit of free-associating free verse. I have no reward whatsoever, but I would appreciate anyoneʼs idea of a good title for it. Hereʼs the poem…

Dry Leaves

Leaves:
he caught leaves,
stabbed them up on the spines of a rake
and swept them away
across the yard to the street,
scratching sparks there.

Handfuls of leaves
were stuffed into plastic sacks
and crammed damn punched hell pushed cripes
into a crumbled powder in bags
sealed shut now that the daywindʼs
caught the night.

He never thought about
the dry warm-toned moments his lifeʼs shed,
scattered by internal winds
to the concrete corners of his sleep,
even though he played, a late boy,
in rare decomposing mountains
of leaves

and leapt allsmoky over the pyre
again and again in the cold eveningʼs
startinted air after supper.

He raked his yard
and wrote a letter to an old girlfriend
while washing his clothes
for the week ahead.

 

29 October 1978

One attractive element of the poem for me was the choice to speak in third person, even though itʼs all about me in its details. Of course, if the poem is any good, itʼs not all about me, or not only. I also like using metaphorical, autumnal-colored leaves for the childhood memories that lie unpeacefully at rest in “concrete-cornered” dreams, as though “he” has somehow raked them together for disposal, too. The ending is perhaps weak (too autobiographical?), but I wanted, and I like, to have the ideas tumble back into mundane reality. The poem arises from an everyday task but whirls up (I donʼt think at the time I had a windborne-leaves image in mind, but I do today) into a poetic reverie, mostly on shed/lost/dead and forgotten youth before sifting back to the ordinary earth. (Thatʼs a pretty bit of metaphorical interpretive analysis.)

I think everything biographical in the poem is both true and accurate. When the family lived in Olivet, the city (or perhaps just the college) in the fall used to collect the leaves into incredibly huge piles located in what I thought of as our back yard — the vast, long stretch of grass way out behind the former frat house we rented (or at least lived in) for my dadʼs two-year stint of college teaching (he evidently hated the politics and backbiting and got back to public school instruction pretty fast, thus moving us all to Iowa, and Mt.P, in the summer of ʼ68). I can remember playing on those leaf mountains a lot, not just in the fall, although the process of decomposition should have made them somewhat unpleasant when the leaves werenʼt fresh (or not…). I was still playing on those leaf piles in my freshman year of high school, a time when I was normally wishing to feel all grown and mature, being interested in and mildly interesting to girls long since, thus “a late boy” in a double sense, that distant youth being as dead as the raked leaves. And at some point(s) in childhood we did play at jumping over burning leaves (friends and I also pretended to be Olympic parachutists — nope, you read that right — by jumping out of a tree in our side/back yard in Rock Island at ever higher and higher levels, although I sometimes believe today that the kid who invented that game was the judge, not a competitor in those nearly suicidal, gravitationally experimental endeavors). Burning, autumn, destruction and (risking) death all fester together somehow, and poets have long seen fire in the annual colors of dying leaves.

The poem evolved from an actual single day of raking on Emma Court (how small that yard seems now), the accumulation from which did wind up in plastic garbage bags, presumably to leave (heh heh) for collection curbside, although I donʼt now remember (and they donʼt collect leaves that way in town today). And I did create sparks with my metal-tined rake on the cement of the curb and street (so itʼs not just symbolic flakes of fire), although I donʼt think that has happened to me since. I assume in memory that the opening stanza got mentally written, more or less verbatim, while I was outdoors raking, and I believe (true or not) that it captures something of the rhythm of that work. Similarly, in the second stanza the third line does echo my mental or verbal pyrotechnics at the difficulties of filling the garbage bags — although with a clean-up on the last cussword, which was originally (and on paper) a maybe-blasphemous use of the Greek messianic title of the Trinityʼs Second Person. I chose the current last word just now for this publication. Possibly I shouldnʼt have bowdlerized myself.

Speaking of last words, although my pseudoGermanic, Joycean compound word makes the reading just a shade confusing, I still enjoy not so much “allsmoky” but that startlingly accurate “startinted.” Sometimes I amaze my now-older self at just what little lovelies I could produce. In fact that whole lineʼs pretty nice, IMHO, as they insincerely say; and “after supper” seems to function correctly to conjure the dull reality of the closing stanza.

Anyway, thatʼs my thirty-two-year-old ode to raking leaves.

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

A Little New One

I was playing around with alliteration and with what might with a little more effort and work have become prose poetry a while back (sorry for the pretentiousness of that — as though there werenʼt any other all-pervading stink of pretension throughout this blog). As I finished creating the post, finding the long-buried pictures (actually taken back in July) and forging those luscious links I love so much, reviewing my spelling and punctuation (usually too cursorily and quickly), I remembered that I had actually written a little piece of description early in the summer that I had at least thought of as a poem, disregarding whether it is one or not. As the only bit of verse I have written on my own during the course of the blog (so far, let us hope), I thought I would put it up in this environment today.

Like several other primarily descriptive verses I have developed, this one arose from a suddenly transfixing moment of observation (generally speaking, I look but donʼt actually see all that much, not the best practice for one who wants to be a writer). The moon appearing in the daytime sky isnʼt all that unusual, although normally taken for granted, by me and the rest of the world. However, back on June 22, as I went outdoors (to get the mail, I think), I looked up, straight ahead of me in the southern sky to see a full moon looking fragmentary and slightly dim in the daytime brilliance — its craters the same shade as the sky itself (or some of them), as though the acidic force of the blue were eating away at the cold white of the lunar disk (one of the phrases I tried and rejected made the moon a decayed hockey puck, though not in those many words, but close enough for rejection).

I stopped on the driveway and just gazed at it, and the start of the incomplete piece of verse I am putting below began bubbling in my mind. I kept looking for possibly a whole minute, thinking of words pretty vaguely and not quite consciously, then started to the mailbox. The clear idea the moon was disintegrating or evaporating (like an ice cube! I wondered) came up as I walked (our box is all the way across our neighborʼs length of yard, right beside theirs at the end of their driveway:  one of the huge accomplishments in the days after my hernia surgery back in early June of 2001 was actually shambling out the front door and carefully, both feet securely onto a step before reaching one of them down to the next, getting down to the driveway, hobbling all the way to the street and then to the mailbox in the middle of an afternoon — our mail arrives late in the day — and not being entirely certain I had the energy to get back home and inside; but I did — that day I donʼt think I even thought to glance up and see if there was a moon fragment deliquescing for my imagination).

I donʼt recall now how long it took me this recent summer day to pull out the big red notebook, in which I was working on a section of “Mistakes by Moonlight,” and on a fresh page scratch down the lines below. I believe it was that same Tuesday afternoon, possibly just about immediately after getting the mail back inside. Although I started to edit and revise it as I put the lines into typing (thatʼs when the hockey-puck mistake reoccurred to me), I didnʼt, leaving what you get exactly what I wrote in the notebook.

Afternoon

Faint ghostmoon partly melted into the flat blue depths,

blue flowing raggedly in several rough channels into the dish,

spoiled and rotting coin, dissolving ice round,

sizzling silently on summer sky

22 June 2010

Not much there, I admit, just four little lines, but I wanted to record the visual image of the moon melting into the sky because I hadnʼt thought of it looking like that before. And since I hadnʼt used poetry (or creative writing of any kind, at all) much to create posts recently, it seemed appropriate to present something that wasnʼt thirty or forty years old.

Itʼs a nice little fragment but not a poem yet, and as I have no idea what to do with it or use it for, Iʼll just present it as it is for now. (And I lied, without realizing it, above: I added the words “and rotting” when I typed it up.)

The photos from the web are interesting and pretty, too, although neither one quite captures the decaying into blue that the real moon was doing on that June afternoon. The full moon is too clear, and the half moon is, well, just a half, and I saw a full. Furthermore, the fading into the sky part was on the right, not the left.

Okay. I went overboard and redescribed the sight about six times here in the explanation. I think I donʼt think the fragment stands on its own…

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

Of Wind, Trees, Mirrors and Stars

With a title lifted vaguely from David Frieberg and Robert Hunter (“Harp Tree Lament”) off a personal-favorite Paul Kantner Jefferson Starship album (in those halcyon days before that name became an actual band), hereʼs a girlfriend-lost poem from those early years teaching (poorly) in Ft. Madison. I left JA (and JS) behind me for a long time once I moved to Maquoketa, even though Kantnerʼs roaring, lyrical (sci-fic) marches have polished an eternal spot in my soul (and amidst the constant, cicadic, scratchy ringing in my ears, which that same music  — played utterly too loud in my youth and loudly nowadays, too, to overcome the tinnitus  — probably caused, at least in part). However, I acquired my first Walkman shortly before Janet and I went to Fiji in 1986, and I got reinterested in my old albums by making tapes from the vinyl originals for the portable player and for our cassette deck. Two ninety-minute mixes were a carefully programmed sequence of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship Kantner/Slick music, heavily falling on those first three non-JA albums  — Blows Against the Empire, Sunfighter and Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun. We returned from the cannibal islands to Los Angeles for a two-night stay before flying home (and a necessary recovery after the twenty-hour flight it was). I listened on the headphones to those tapes flying home and in a wholly exhausted state (and jokingly-possibly yangona-hungover  — more on that adventure one day) falling asleep in the dire hotel where Janet had placed us. (I really should recreate the sequence of those tapes as an iPod playlist; I wonder what hearing all those songs in the appropriate order might do to my head these days.)

I donʼt think I appreciated or recognized much Jefferson Airplane before the Woodstock album (my copy of which came from an abortive Spanglish haggling session in Mexico City while on a Presbyterian Youth Fellowship mission trip and which we played to arouse the troops for “morning maniac madness”  — yes, an inext quotation, and deliberately so — by playing “Volunteers” on a creaky church phonograph in an Oklahoma City church basement; later that day I purchased my first Osibisa album — and theirs, too  — because of the Roger Dean cover art, such is the cleverness of record-industry marketing). Kantner cemented his place in my musical mind with the Blows album the year I graduated from high school  — all those songs (thank you, Jerry Garcia on pedal steel) still rouse me in a strange (but now faded) manner.

And I only bring up all this personal musical-history summary to admit that if one were fully versed in all the music I listened in those high-creative years of the mid-Seventies (lots of Yes and Who and Rolling Stones in that unconscious mental mix, too), you could probably spot my interpretations of the song rhythms that I was hearing as I wrote (and my interpretation of rhythm is an amusingly personal and idiosyncratic thing, indeed  — just ask Janet). So it is strange that once I had a rhythm (undoubtedly stolen because I really donʼt think I am all that inventive or creative), I could usually create a poem, like the sonnet below.

Aeolian Harp Song

What you get when you search for “wind moon”

White air disturbs trees, dancing the leaves.

The wind passes, dark air wet with wonder, a spirit,

fraught with eyes, telling lies: here the wind weaves

a fabric of oaks, vines and reeds. You can hear it

whistling the sundown, surfing the sea while it heaves

up the moon (a many-faced lady). You must fear it

when moonlight rips holes in the air — then the wind deceives

mortals and hushes the trees. Do not come near it

then, when birds sought the south, safety and sun:

silence too dreadful to touch, when the white moon breathes

blackness and stars burn without twinkling. You must shun

forests then, seeking mirrors. Moonlight sickles reeds

in that season as women make blood. Remained then and you

will see wonders unwritten in trees but the hawthorn, elder and yew.

evidently after losing the lady and reading The White Goddess

23 April 1976

I must have found incredible solace or inspiration (or steal-able imagery anyway) in The White Goddess because it pushes to the front in nearly everything I wrote for about two years, including of course this poem. The list of trees at the end (and the earlier trio inline 4) is directly referring to Graves (and reading the book would help understanding why those trees in those trios, too), and I think his goddess is behind the menstrual image, as well. The sickle is also lunar and therefore Gravesian, I guess, and therefore the moon has to be “white” in line 10). On the other hand, the mirror is more personal (check back on earlier poem-posts  — hereʼs just one example, and another — for some of my other uses of that imagery) and does tie in my mind with knives, so therefore the moonlight ripping “holes in the air.” As for stars, well, theyʼre hiding over, under, around and within the currently posting story.

I like the tight rhyme scheme, more Italianate than English  — abababab (only two sounds for the octet!) cdcdee. I donʼt think I have any meaning in that pattern, however. It just sounded cool to me (more or less still does).

Although I have already taken note of what I decided to record in my own note to myself (the green line above the composition date), I kept it in because I havenʼt remarked that those lines are on the original typescripts as notes to myself (to help me remember what I probably should recall anyway, right?). Although I am sure I remember which girlfriend, I appreciate my own delicacy in the maladroit (and so Seventies-Romantic) wording of the notation. I also just noticed that I wrote the poem on Shakespeareʼs birthday.

And, yes, now I remember: I do owe apologies to Samuel R. Delany (and Vonda McIntyre) for ripping off your title styles (I was thinking of McIntyreʼs “Of Mist, Sand andGrass” when I devised this postʼs title, but it may really owe more to Delanyʼs little essays that adhere to his later science fiction novels)

(I really do have a good time using old poems to hocus up a post…)

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

“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.