A Little More… Sepharad

Just because it was such a pain to dictate, hereʼs a little more of what went vocally into Scrivener on Wednesday, December 1. Remember… Judah and Søren are trying to break into the Green Tower, lair of the infamous (but tantalizing) Red Witch, Larissa. Judahʼs working for the minor crime lord Reynaldo, who is in turn trying to impress a patronizing lord who is himself currying favor from the (even more nefarious, and deservedly so) Necromancer!

We pick up where we left off last Sunday.


Judah unbound the strange device he had tried to explain to the Northman from heavy loops of rope. It looked an awkward thing, though Søren’s experience distinguished the climber’s hook protruding on an iron bar from one end of it. Casually his partner began turning a screw on one side.

“This little machine will send the hook all that distance?”

“And more. You’ve never before seen one of these?”

“No. A Moorish invention?”

“Aye. Based, some say, on old Greek and Roman rowing machines, but I’ve seen drawings of these old catapults and read about them in Vitruvius. They worked on entirely different principles,” Judah grunted out between turns on the screw, effort which grew visibly more difficult even for his lean strength. “Get’s called a crossbow. And I think I’ve wound it tight enough.”

Judah raised the wooden device and held it shoulder high, aiming the hook end at the rooftop some twenty yards distant. Now it was evident that at least some of the rope was attached to the climber’s hook. Citing steadily, the Kabul West fingered a catch on the wooden structure. With a clear thrum the bar and hook sailed at the rooftop of the Green Tower, trailing rope behind.In an instant the hook clattered on the other roof. Judah pulled carefully on the rope tugging the hook toward one particular angle on a cornice where he hoped it securely lodged.

Several stout pulls the rope indicated his aim and effort had been true.

“So now one can swing across?”

“It should work.”

“So which of us goes?”

“The trick was designed for just one, but as I suggested, I think we’ll try it together, Søren. Aiming for that window there. See? Can you gauge the right length of rope?”

“It’s a long swing to a tiny target, Judah.”

“That window’s six feet high and three across. All we have to do is hit it and not the wall to either side. Or swing too high or too low. This was the hitch in the plan for me: I’m not sure I could get myself across accurately. But you, can you do it?”

Søren, who had met you experience with ropes and swinging on such, both in the fjords and mountains of his distant homeland, but also at sea, a-Viking, examined the tower, the hook’s evident location and the rope — certainly stout enough to hold two, considered, and finally nodded. “Aye.” They were still speaking German, partly from convenience, partly yet from a sense of secrecy.

Søren squared himself to that distant tower — tugged strongly on the rope, observing both the pivot of the hook and the window. Judah had aligned where the bolt landed and struck well, whether from luck or skill. And with a brush of luck and application of skill, Søren should be able to swing to the window — the challenge being the double load, taking the smaller man along.

Hesitating would not resolve or improve the situation. “Climb on,” he ordered, nearly kneeling on their parapet. Judah clambered piggyback onto the huge man’s shoulders, which Søren flexed in a couple of shrugs, adjusting to the burden, then grasping the rope firmly in both hands, dangling some out into space ahead, twirled the last few feet around his chest and Nathan’s rear. He stepped back a few feet and then sprinted to the parapet, saving one last long step to the top of that low wall, and leaped.

The rope snapped taught around both their bodies after a few seconds of free fall, rushing they are descending for word momentum. Nathan felt his heart thundering in his arms, wrapped around the big Northman’s shoulders. Three heartbeats, four: Søren swung his boots foremost, and they smashed into the glazing of the window, true on center, as Søren released the rope and let it snake away raspingly from his body.

As last time, if you see something that seems wrong, (thank MacSpeech Dictate and) let me know…

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

Søren and Judah (again)

Here is the second dose of the recent portion of “Mistakes by Moonlight” that I dictated this last week. As MacSpeech Dictate mishears meat least once every sentence, usually more often, you can help by letting me know what things you find that donʼt make sense (I already spotted and correct an “I” that should have been “A.”

Although, this, from the very original draft assumes that they are leaving from the Golden Bull, having just met. You and I know better, and this is really the second night, and I need to come up with a good reason to have them begin “well fortified with wine,” or else change the start of this chapter (which will be chapter 4; I was still writing chapter 3, all brand-new, when I scheduled this).


“medieval thoroughfare” image search result

Thus, fortified with a powerful dosage of wine, and moderately fed, this small and the tall set out in the middle of the night to renew the interrupted escapade. As Judah had taken the route specified by Reynaldo’s plan when beset the day before, they both concluded the wisdom of trying an alternate path to their goal, the Green Tower.

As the planned route had wound through back ways and had been assaulted so easily, Søren suggested that they try the most public way possible, and the Street of Dreams led directly across town, just a few rambling blocks from the large, empty square where stood the witch’s power. It lay a bit further from the nasty alley which the Golden Bull fronted.

Even at this hour merry crowds filled Calle de Sueños, one of the five principal avenues across the city, and the two melted into the flow of folk, although Søren’s height placed him conspicuously overlooking the streams of heads.

On the other hand, no one was looking for him. Or so the two hoped as they strode along and dodged among the mixed classes and religions thronging the Street of Dreams.

Once, in a dark place between wavering cones of light from civic torches, a man rushed from an obscure doorway directly at Judah. But when Søren stepped in his way, the fellow appeared simply overstimulated with drink. A few minutes later, in another dark stretch where the crowds had evaporated into amusements within the buildings alongside, a pair of horsemen appeared ahead and charged down at the duo, who both dodged aside, as the mounted police laughed and clattered on. More sinister, both men felt and nervous pressure at every intersection and separately kept turning ahead to check behind. Søren plowing people aside, judo weaving and docking between folks and around groups. Every time all seem secure unless that group which quickly turned aside into that tavern on the left was the same group that had slipped off briefly to cheer a Gypsy dancer in a side street earlier.

In the better part of town, public buildings, palaces and places of worship — mosques, churches, synagogues — stood stately and widespread along the margins of the street. On this side of the city, businesses of all repute’s with rooms above, taverns, in his and gambling dens massed thickly on each side. The street remained wide, providing passage to pedestrians, carriages and carts, worsening as well as burdened donkeys and stevedores balancing pallets of goods on shoulders and heads. Upper stories are on side streets might nearly or truly touch over the passageway, but here have been remain clearly visible above.

As they advanced, the number of people gradually dwindled along with the streetlights and the noise until they found themselves alone on the now black street, just a block from the turning to the narrow way debouching into the bleak and vacant square outside the Green Tower.

A cat yowled suddenly when they stepped into the square of few minutes later and fled, all white streak, across an open area and to one side.

“I hope that wasn’t some demonic guardian warning of our approach,“ Soren opined.

“If she cares, if she’s away, she probably knows all that transpires around her tower. But our boss says she’s grown comfortable and careless. Thus her supernatural slumber twixt midnight and dawn. Come, let’s hurry. Always lies where the Went, a coincidence not at all reassuring to me.“

“medieval green tower” image search result

“Maybe he was sent by the wizard we indirectly serve, Judah.“

“A thought even less comforting. I almost think I’d rather have her attention on me than that blackhearted Necromancer’s. Here’s our alley. Follow.“

Halfway down this side passage, Judah drew a key from his purse, using the device to open very small and the road door in the building they had been passing. Quickly he rushed Søren, ducking and twisting, within, and although the plan had not called for the action, relocked the portal from inside.

“That will make it difficult to leave again, should the need arise,” objected the Northerner.

“Our plan is to exit her tower another way.” Nathan repocketed the key. “Besides, safely locked, I hope no one can follow us from here. Go. Grope ahead: a stairway should open on the left.”

It did, and the two climbed in darkness, up and up, turning on landing after landing until suddenly Søren’s head thumped against the rough unseen in the utter black. He swore under his breath.

“Perhaps I should have gone first. Sorry. Feel for the ring,” Judah urged. “It’s a trap door onto the roof.”

Søren made no sound locating the ring his head had barely missed in the collision, turned it as instructed, and heaved upwards slightly, just a few inches, peering out on the vaulted surface of the rooftop. All looked silent and deserted in the single direction he could barely see.

The thin slit of starlight illuminated the top steps to Judah’s dark-accustomed eyes, and he quickly located the gear Reynaldo had promised hanging on the wall. Gathering this stuff into his arms, he asked, “All clear?”

In reply, Søren pushed the door up right and leaped out, his left hand still on the ring as his right swept his sword up and out to challenge… nothing. All clear. He stepped aside as Judah swarmed up and out with his new burdens, and then he lowered the door again, dropping the ring and grasping the portal’s edge.

“Let it close all the way,” Judah instructed. “There’s little enough we could do were we able to retreat this way again.”

But Søren cautiously kicked a pebble to lodge in the gap as he released his grasp. Now they could return through the trap door, if necessary. An unlikely need, perhaps, but he also noticed no ring topside to lift the door again to permit ingress. The Green Tower loomed to their left across about twenty yards of open space. They crossed to the edge of their roof, standing behind a low parapet just higher than Judah’s knees. From up here they could see that the open square actually surrounded the tower on all sides, isolating it with at least the distance before them between it and any other building. Indeed, their rooftop came closer than any other structure to the Green Tower.

And it was green, even in the nocturnal darkness which made the tower black, hints of reflection winked greenly. Color by starlight was almost impossible to perceive, but Søren realized he had seen the towerʼs top as a memorable element of the cityscape when he rode down out of the mountains to the plain. And Judah naturally had several times circled and deleted the building in the square, providing a sop and a stimulant to his everthirsting curiosity. Looking upward, Søren could see the rows of periodic windows which would be their primary interest. Far higher yet that crenellated tower top — far too high for any strength to launch a climber’s hook.

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

REH, Take 2

Yes, no post at 5:05 this morning, although I was out running (having put in at least a whole mile by then, by the way). Yesterday evening I did a little research on publication options and got fairly depressed thinking about acquiring agents one of these days, once a complete novel is in the can. Sorrowfully self-pitying, but true. I also think that a full day (mostly out and about) had gotten to me just a bit. Anyway, when Qwest interrupted service yet again (for the fourth time, and I hadnʼt been online until after 3:30), I just shut down about 6:00 and made Janetʼs lunch and yesterdayʼs supper. So now I get to churn out something this morning.

the old one, the Ace edition I read first, too many years ago

I wrote about Robert E. Howard a while back, reminiscing about early fantasy reading from my days in Olivet, before I got hacking on the November novel project. During November, having purchased a copy from amazon.com back in May or June, I also reread my least favorite Howard book, Almuric, his only foray into the Burroughsian interplanetary-traveling-Earthman side of planetary romance, and a pretty noticeably bad book. I didnʼt hate it as much this year as when I first finally read the whole thing about twenty-five years ago, having bought the Ace edition back in the late Sixties or earliest Seventies — some time when my proprietorial signature was more legible than itʼs been in decades and I hadnʼt yet begun dating and locating my book purchases in the front.

the new edition from Planet Stories (thanks to whom I now own the complete Northwest Smith)

As Howardʼs only real venture into science fiction, Almuric is not the best, although I think it had an unconscious influence on my choice to strand Hunter on his own for a few months on Tsyriel (which is why I wanted to reread the book, to avoid unconscious thefts). All the Texanʼs flaws are on parade — including sketchy background detail, too much self-praise for the brawny muscles of the protagonist (itʼs also in first person, unlike Howardʼs best stuff) and unbelievable fights and heroic victories. The girl is even more sugary-lame and pathetic than usual (truly a thing to be rescued and thatʼs it). The book reads like an anti-intellectual tract (Esau Cairn, our brutal hero, knows he has no books, art or intellectual pursuits, and thatʼs the way it should be; the “humans” on Almruic are hairy beasts, whose women are supernaturally unhairy lovelies, every one, doting on the “protection” of their brutish male masters), as if Howard were trying to convince himself a lot too much. The book has bird-people, too, so that was another issue I wanted to avoid borrowing unintentionally. However, it was considerably more readable than I had thought the first time around (of course when last I reread the first three of Burroughsʼs Martian books, the three “good ones,” about ten years ago, I wasnʼt too enthralled, particularly with Princess, which I enjoyed a lot last month — moods and other interests determine so much).

my edition

Howard gets a lot of credit these days for his “realism.” I am not a scholar, although I have read just about every Howard story published in book form since 1967, including the boxing-sailor and Western tales, and realism is not a quality I have particularly noticed. Hammett, even Chandler, have it all over Howard in style and language, characterization and plot (and weʼre not even talking about actual realists here, like Twain, Howells, Crane, Dreiser or even London* — the last of whom, being one of Howardʼs literary heroes, leaves the pupil in the Texas dirt, realistically). Even in the boxing stories, and the author was a practiced combatant at the ungentle science, the level of realism is pretty bookish on settings (our writer had never been much farther than a couple of hundred miles from home, although massively well-read in a certain kind of second- and third-tier range of fiction and nonfic, a lot like me in that) and events; even the fights, though violently well described are generally narcissistic fantasies, which is what I enjoyed, I bet. The same goes for his historicals (personally some of my favorites — discovering Sowers of the Thunder in the mid-Seventies was wonderful in many ways, and reinvigorated my Howardolatry, me having dropped even rereading Conan for five or six years then), but even there the story lines are always improbable and glamorously self-aggrandizing — both for reader and author, I think. The perfect adolescent escapism.

The Howard-as-realist doctrine is probably trying to defend/exalt the writerʼs violence (and he is good at violent action, enviably and worthy of emulation). For the Thirties, Howard was as bloody and gory as they got, at least in my limited experience, and at least for me he did a fantastic (careful word choice there) job of making it real to my imagination. He also had a relatively stripped-down style, for all his sometimes paragraph-long passages of imaginative (or borrowed and “improved”) description and lapidary deployment of adjectives and adverbs (both parts of speech I think the Hemingway — now thereʼs a realist — school of critics has improperly made modern and contemporary writers coltish about wielding sufficiently). Howardʼs defenders intend realism to mean/substitute for juicy violence, which of course is nonsense — in that case every Hollywood action flick of the last several decades is a rough gem of realism in gritty and gore-splattering violence (but of course if that were actually true, as it is decidedly not, one could avoid injury in any massive explosion by simply leaping, as all action heroes always/invariably and totally unrealistically do). Howard splashed blood liberally and successfully, but not I think realistically.

His defenders also want to praise Howardʼs lushly teenaged “tragic vision.” Yes, the writer had and expressed a dark and brutal** view of life, but quite simply, boys, the heroes always survive to fight another day. Your author (that secretly self-deceiving mommaʼs boy) may have shot himself, tragically, but the story ainʼt a tragedy when the hero wins and wins and wins impossibly again. Howard was a better poet than my adolescent self, but the “darkness” expressed in his verse matches perfectly the stuff I imposed on the Mt. Pleasant High writing club meeting after meeting — itʼs teeenaged angst and not much more (which is secretive and self-deceiving, perhaps the origin of just that melancholy).

Howardʼs forte is improbability, romanticism, fast brutal action and escapism (pencil-armed, bespectacled nerds imagining themselves into the indomitable brawn of Conan, Kull, Kane or any other REH protagonist), which is what drew me to the stories in the first place, lured me back over the decades, and attracts me still. Realism has its own appeals, but they are not those of Conan. Or even Almuric.

* If I really wanted to compose a thorough and effective lit-crit analysis/critique of Howardʼs unrealism, I would contrast him against the equally romantic (and sometimes equally escapist) but actually realistic Jack London.

** …the best word for Howardʼs writing, I think. “Brutality” is much preferable to the lie of “realism,” and much more adolescent, too.

most, but not all, of the Howard books (I really, truly, really own too many — a pity that the author got nothing from my investments); nice contrasts with what else is on these shelves, too

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

Planetary Romance, 6

And now, to end the month of November (at least on the day for your weekly dose of bits from fiction), hereʼs the rest of Chapter One, “End of an Affair,” from Slaves to the Lesser Moon. The previous part was here, last Sunday.

Hunter and Birch are talking as Terry passes out in the apartment. Birch is trying to explain Dr. V.J. Fairchildʼs accidental intrusion into the nature of time and space…

“So you push things through your… — gap into another time? Is that it?”

“Kind of, sure. Only the things are the gap, in a way, probabalistically. Theyʼre equivalent with timeless spacetime, only timeless and spaceless, too I guess. See, she was working with some abnormal results published a few years back, in Physics Notes, from CERN, and she realized last year, about now, I guess, a year ago, that if you removed the temporal elements in the equations — she was developing different equations than youʼd have thought — , dividing out the vibrations in the strings, the abnormalities made sense, fit her new timeless equations… but those were highpowered experiments. I mean, itʼs CERN, itʼs the biggest, most-highpowered… Then in second semester last year she realized that the same results, well, similar ones, equivalent, could be reached at relatively low powers, too. Not exactly. What took her attention, what captured her imagination, was the time absence. See? Her idea was that we could manipulate, create an actual gap, thatʼs what I call it, in spacetime, so thereʼs no time, and so I guess no space, same thing, you know, within the radius, briefly.”

He made no sense to me. I donʼt think he did to himself. He acted really frustrated.

“But you did it? You made whatever you are talking about happen?”

“Um, yeah. In a way. I guess. Yeah. We have demonstrated her equations. After Thanksgiving, we used a pencil, then bigger objects. We celebrated New Yearʼs using a mouse I, uh, liberated, from the bio lab.”

Terry mumbled suddenly in his stupor, and I realized I was feeling pretty dopey myself. Maybe what Birch was saying made sense if you hadnʼt guzzled a dozen beers. Thirteen. I looked down at the one still in my hand, heavy, barely drunk at all.

“You used things? How?”

“We, uh, made stuff change their place in time, spacetime.”

“You made stuff travel through time?”

“Uh, sure, although I donʼt think thatʼs really a very good terminology, Hunter. The device creates this spacetime gap, and if we introduce something into the gap, or rather create the gap around the object, well, as the object, really, it no longer occupies spacetime. Itʼs independent of the framework. The whole framework. Thatʼs what Valjean doesnʼt see. Even gravity doesnʼt affect them. Maybe not even dark matter or energy.”

“I donʼt get it. You put things in your machine and they just sit there? How do you know you are doing anything at all? What is it? They donʼt age or what?”

“No. Well, they donʼt. Age, that is. Or rather, they shouldnʼt. Not while they equate with the gap, are the gap, become the gap…” He was losing us both trying to identify just what happened inside their time machine.

“Can I see it?”

“See it?”

“Yeah, Birch. Will you let me see it? Maybe you could show me what it does, you know. Maybe then Iʼd understand…”

I had lit a little fire in him, visible in his eyes. “You want to see what it does…”

“Sure. Show me. Maybe itʼll all make sense then. I want to see what happens to the things in your gap.”

“Not in the gap. They are the gap. Briefly. Well, not briefly, thatʼs time. But they re-emerge. Before we put them in. Sometimes.”

An exaggeration (for the story)

“Before? Before you put them in? They go back in time?”

“Sort of. Not always. The cat came back, came out right away — “

“You tried this thing on a cat?”

“Valjean found it hanging outside her condo. Brought it in on Monday.”

“But it didnʼt work on the cat?”

“No. It worked. Just — … differently. Itʼs really hard to explain…”

“Youʼve got to show me, Birch.”

“She wanted me to try it on a bigger subject. Living things donʼt behave, react, the same as other objects. Shouldnʼt matter, but apparently it does… And sheʼs not considering the gravitational aspect. She thinks thatʼs an electrodynamic effect that weʼre observing. But it isnʼt shouldnʼt be… Sometimes I wonder if itʼs not  dark energy thing. — I didnʼt want to try it myself, you see. I think thereʼs other issues… She just focuses on the time-negativity all the time, but time is space. I know it. Timelessness is spacelessness, too. That matters.”

He was all worried about something else, trying to make all the numbers add up or something. I wanted to see the machine. I wanted to see something travel through time.

“Come on, Birch. Iʼve got to see this. You have to show me.”

Something clicked in his mind. Something changed. He agreed. “Okay. I can show you, Hunter. Hell,” he looked sly, somehow, “if you ask real pretty, I might even let you try it out for yourself…” He was staring right at me really funny, but I didnʼt register it at the time. He had made me think.

Could I try it out? Go back in time? I suddenly imagined stopping Jen from hooking up with her Jack last summer… It was only a few hours from Pashitakua to Hartford. Could Birch send me that far back? He wouldnʼt want to. Heʼd never want to help me with anything. But if I didnʼt tell him…

“Youʼd let me try it out, Birch?”

“Sure, dude. Maybe. I mean itʼs experimental. But if you see it, and want to try it out. Why not?”

Why not indeed? I started to see it all in my head. I could steal my own car from myself, my old self, and drive straight to her house, the day after she got home. Sheʼd said she didnʼt see that Jack jerk for the first time until the middle of June… Itʼd be real romantic. Sheʼd like that… Sheʼd like that a lot…

“So, Hunter, you want to go? Give it a looksee?”

By now I wanted to do a whole lot more than see. I thought the only hard part would be getting Birch to really, truly let me use the machine. If only I had remembered what he had said when he arrived. But I didnʼt. I just sucked on the beer can instead.

And thatʼs the end of Chapter One, about 5500 words altogether. Scrivener estimates that at fourteen paperback pages. Too long?

The big issue is whether I have had time to finish (or will in these next three days) the final 7000 words to reach 50,000 and thereby “win” NaNoWriMo.

©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).


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


shining with the windy


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.

Planetary Romance, 5

As work stalled somewhat last week on my November novel, Slaves to the Lesser Moon, due to real life grabbing me up (giving me work opportunity, stealing a day for lessons in ocular migraines), this old portion from Chapter One doesnʼt seem so distant and unrelated to where Iʼm at as it shoud. Enjoy. The former pieces are here, here, here and here. Our hero, Hunter, is talking to physics nerd Birch Thorstein, who is annoyed that Hunterʼs roomie, Terry, has spilled the beans about a possible secret time machine in development.

Then he gave me the opening I had forgotten: “What do you know about the device?”

“What device?” My drink-stalled brain had also, like Terry, lost the thread of recent conversation. “Do you mean your — Fairchild machine?”

“Thatʼs exactly what I mean, asshole.” Birch was rapid firing his thoughts at me. What do you know? How do you know?” His brain was working very fast indeed, at least relative to mine. “— He told you, right?”

Terry jerked his head from a slump toward his chest at that. He knew he must be “he.”

“I was explaining why you were coming over, Birch.”

“Perfect.” Now Birch was mad, too. “Did you tweet everyone as well?”

“Aw, Birch, his girl dumped him…” Terry whined inanely.

“I donʼt care if his girl screwed the whole football team fifty times over!” Birch roared, the only sober one among us thoroughly losing it. “I want to know who all knows what about my personal, private business!”

“You built a bogus time machine,” I sniped bitterly. “Big deal.” His face blanched, looking upward at me. “No one cares.”

His watery gray eyes widened with fierce intensity. “How do you know these things?”

Good guesses, actually. I have always been a good guesser (as with Jen this fall). Sometimes I just donʼt want to acknowledge what my intuition tells me.

Now he grabbed me by my sweatshirt collar, arising from my chair, shoving his acned face very close to mine. “Tell me what you know. Tell me!”

Terry stirred to wakefulness. “He only knows what I told him. Just now.” His diction was very vague, sounds all sloshing together.

Birch turned on him. “I never told you it was a time machine. How did you find out? How!” He wasnʼt asking; he was insisting.

I explained, “You told him Fairchild had come up with some kind of — “ The word temporal still eluded my tongue.

“Breakthrough about time,” Terry chimed in, almost merrily.

“And you built a machine,” I finished. “Time plus machine equals time machine. Big freaking deal. Itʼs garbage, just like everything else sheʼs ever thought was important.” Dr. Fairchild was a huge joke around campus, probably academic circles nationwide, for her continual flood of ridiculously flawed insights.

Birchʼs eyes glanced around, away from me, even as his angry grip on my shirt relaxed. “Yeah. Yeah. Thatʼs right, all right. Just garbage.” He was lying. If Terry hadnʼt been nodding again, even he could have noticed. Birch was a lousy liar, his face and eyes all giveaways, at least to me. “I gotta go,” he added lamely, releasing me, moving away from my chair toward the door and the steps down to outside.

Terry snored.

“Birch. Wait.” I didnʼt realize at first it was me that spoke. Why shouldnʼt I be glad to be rid of Birch as easily as this? I usually couldnʼt get him out of our place once Terry had let him in.

He just kept moving, so I did, too, following. “Hold up.” I grabbed his arm, and he turned, looking quickly at Terry, unconscious. “Heʼs out of it, Birch.” I knew what he was thinking. “Itʼs just you and me. Come on, dude. I know youʼre lying, man. But I donʼt get it. What are you trying to hide? I mean, come on, we were just talking about — Fairchild… “ I thought briefly. “Does that mean… “ At first, I couldnʼt identify, pin down the scarcely conceived idea that had drawn me over to stop him. And then I couldnʼt admit it. “Itʼs her thing, isnʼt it? Thatʼs just not possible. Is it? — It works?!” Birch tried maintaining a stolid incomprehension on his face, but his eyes brightened enormously at my question. “Fairchildʼs time machine actually works!?” It sounded more like an accusation than a question, and he responded as though under interrogation, mutely nodding, not meeting my gaze.

an actual accelertor, CERN, Switzerland

“Keep it down, huh? This is all top secret stuff. Even Valjeanʼs not really aware that — “ he checked himself, and then added in a lowered tone, “that the device actually does what it — … does.” He pulled me close, nearer than I ever like to be to him, and whispered. “She thinks that because weʼre operating really low-power, and because it creates such a small aperture, that it only extends maybe a few minutes… but I think itʼs a lot more complicated than she believes. Iʼve run tests without her, when she wanʼt around… “

“What are you talking about?” He was confusing me. To me, time machine suggested H.G. Wells — you hop in, set a date, pull the crystal bar, and go. The movie-inspired image in my mind kind of made me want to see what the real thing was like.

“Itʼs hard to explain. Itʼs all math, you know, physics, spacetime. See, her idea was that we could force a gap in spacetime,” he paused trying to calculate if his words accurately expressed the arcane equations that actually made sense to him.

“A hole?” I offered.

“No, a point — thatʼs what she originally computed could be accomplished… “ My unscientific perspective was frustrating him. “Itʼs like a — gap,” he retreated to the word with which heʼd begun, “where spacetime doesnʼt occur.”

“A vacuum?” I was trying, but I really didnʼt understand.

“No. Yes, kind of. A vacuum of time… space, too, necessarily, I suppose… Einstein insisted they were an identity… Itʼs a point — well, originally probably just a geometric point, but we, really me, I was able to expand the, uh, gap lately…”

He was losing me utterly. Too many ideas too inadequately expressed. “So you can push things through this thing, hole, you make?”

“Not a hole, Hunter. Itʼs nothing. A gap. Where time isnʼt permitted, mathematically, doesnʼt happen… or exist, temporarily… But temporarilyʼs time-based… Damn!” Now he was confusing himself, trying to translate what must have been some powerfully wicked math into words.

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

Planetary Romance, 4

Yep. More of the November novel. You get three parts right in a row. I am so far past this section of the story now, it seems funny to me, as in the old days when I started posting bits of “Mantorville.” Therefore, I will get you all a little closer to the end of Chapter One.

The door was open. I hadnʼt locked it when I came griefstricken into our place. There were lots of nights it remained unlocked. It wasnʼt like, even with the college in town, that Pashitakua was a hive of criminal activity. Small Wisconsin towns are pretty quiet places.

Birch slammed it open and shut and charged right up the stairs to our place, bursting through the door, while I was still registering the bell.

His neurasthenic, skimpily-bearded face was aghast or terrified. Or something. Whatever was going on, that was more emotion than I had ever seen him express. “Terry! Mʼman. You wonʼt believe whatʼs happened to me.”

“Dude. Whatʼs going on?” Terry asked instantly. I didnʼt care.

“Valjeanʼs gone nuts, man.” I had learned some time ago that his pet name for Dr. Fairchild put a (mispronounced) literary pun on her first and middle names. “Plumb crazy. Nuts.”

Which probably just meant that his month of work building whatever contraption she had required was clearly the waste of time that every one of her projects was. I got up, carefully, slowly, to find the refrigerator and grab one more Keystone. Maybe, when I located it, I might ask the bearded wonder if he wanted something. And I wondered, just how many cases of beer had we bought last time? If Terry and I both had just drunk twelve-plus, that meant one dead boxful. Didnʼt it?

I barely heard them talking as I drifted the twenty steps through the kitchen. I did hear Birch selfishly plop himself in the chair I had vacated. Nothing for him, then.

“Short meeting.” Terry observed thickly. “Whatʼd she do? Terminate your assistantship? Again?”

“She wants me to test the machine, man.”



“Test the machine. Whaddaya mean…?” Obviously Terry hadnʼt understood whatever Birch meant as closely as Birch had assumed.

“Test the machine. Test the machine! She wants me to be her first live test on the machine.”

“What machine?” I wondered as I tried to stride manfully back in the living room without either hitting the kitchen doorway or the sofa or the big chair. Or spill my fresh beer. I had forgotten already that Birch had taken my seat. I tottered to a stop behind the sofa.

“Donʼt tell him,” Birch snapped. “Not a word.”

“Tell him about what?” Terry was puzzled. He had, after all, drunk more than I had.

“Fairchildʼs theory?” I asked. “Didja build a machine to test her time breakthrough?” I wanted to say “temporal” but the word eluded my consciousness, and my mouth would probably have never been up to that many syllables anyway. I also wanted to laugh, like I was too cool for their nonprogress at physics.

Birch cut me short. “Whatʼs he know, Terry? It sounds like he knows. What did you tell him!”

“About what?” Terry was looking seriously confused now. “His girl dumped him tonight.”

Thanks, Ter, I thought. Just the guy I did not want to know all about my stuff. But clearly Terryʼs mind was wandering down some drunken corridors of its own, far from our little discussion just minutes earlier. He was back on my personal problems. And now that he had brought it all up again, so was I.

Big warm tears were building up in my eyes, but I didnʼt want to cry, not in front of Birch.

“The redhead? About time. Sheʼs got another guy back in her hometown. Has had all year.”

I wanted to punch him. How could he be so right? I glowered wetly over him, one hand still on the sofa. “How did you know, Birch?”

“Bah. Everyone knows, Hunter. She told people. Besides, it was obvious from the start of the year.” He was right, although I hated to admit it. Somehow I had known from the first day we had seen each other after summerʼs end that something was different, wrong. I knew but hadnʼt wanted to explore the intuition. Still it enraged me that this jerk knew, but fume as I might, I had no clever quip to impact what I felt was his smug satisfaction.

Then he gave me the opening I had forgotten: “What do you know about the device?”

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