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.

Trying to Change, Changing to Try

Once upon a time, I lived in a river town (humorous now, because in “Mantorville”* and Quetzal County, the river towns are especially vile, rundown, terrifying and inbred, although we wonʼt be getting into that in the current tale). I spent two years in Ft. Madison, toward the bottom end of Iowa, my first two years teaching. That period of my life concluded with my job being staff reduced (these are not the only hard economic times we have faced, children), even though I used my association/union right of a hearing before the board (held brightly early on a Saturday morning, of all godawful times for a 22-year-old slacker lad — that would be me — to raise himself from the depths of Morpheusʼs amorphous empire) at which I infuriated my representative by speaking on my own behalf repeatedly, excessively — a totally unhelpful maneuver, as the other, less experienced teacher theyʼd also dropped got retained eventually (he didnʼt seek his own hearing and was still teaching at FMHS a decade later, having briefly become their large group speech coach and thus an amusing encounter at state contest for me), even though an (well, I thought) elderly lady (who was probably younger then than I am now) in the English department exercised her right to retire that spring in my favor.** (At least I got to use and abuse my knowledge of the words antepenultimate and penult in the daily bulletin and thus frighten the administration into thinking I intended some kind of of Righteous revenge for my sacking, which I truly did not, although I still savor the sweet taste of their desperate, misinterpretive coddlings afterward.

But getting fired (all right, to be accurate, “reduced”) isnʼt what I wanted to talk/write about today. I want to tell a story about my consciousness getting raised (such a Seventies bit of jargon now, but so very, truly accurate and descriptive).

Lots happened to me and to my psyche in those early years of my teaching career, predictably so, me being such a callow cad (perhaps then and now). Iʼll make you search back through the post archives to find out, but I have talked already about fragile and breaking affairs of the heart in those years (try clicking the “Poetry” category to simplify your search). In the end, I left the Fort sans my longtime college girlfriend but temporarily in a new relationship that would founder within months of my move to Maquoketa (perhaps because the lesson I am about to recount hadnʼt fully altered my behavior or being yet). And although I recoiled from the knowledge then, I know now that I deserved both blows.

I recall me sitting in my upstairs apartment, having watched a television show, which one I no longer possess even a glimmer of a guess. But the episode (probably of a situation comedy, to be honest) left me puzzling my noodle over the issue of feminism. The broadcast wasnʼt the only stimulus to this perception-shifting session of sweet, silent thought, but it was the straw that broke this camelʼs stubborn back. Through a long evening, or even a longer weekend, I wrestled with myself over the genuine equality of the fairer sex. Naturally, being the age I was and accepting the freewheeling socio-political outlook that I shared with my friends, I paid lip service to this ideal and sought to fulfill it in social, employment and financial terms. What I had to grapple with that night was the actual, personal reality of the idea and how it would forever alter my relationships. And I didnʼt like that notion one little bit.

I cannot any more resurrect the pros and cons and emotional wrangling that I endured. Our human brains are wired, after all, to forget painful experience. But I went to bed at last having persuaded myself that I had to perceive (and treat) women differently than I had grown up doing (and I had grown up with a strong mother and a clever older sister — if that informs you sufficiently). What did I have to determine? I didnʼt come first (or solely) in romantic relationships (a really tough one for a boy whose hormones were still erupting powerfully). I didnʼt even matter in some extremes (no matter how my raging inner self might feel). Any she was as or more important than me (and of course, that insight has multiplex ramifications for us all). In some ways it was probably a pretty masochistic moment, but the lessons were vital and I hope inspirational for me, regardless how little I wanted to experience and learn them.

The Lovely One (and others between that day and my meeting my future wife, if not since) probably would assert I have never mastered that set of lessons even mostly, but I have tried. Still do. And the fact that what I had to learn was unpleasant, disorienting and even denying something of myself is the key element for today.

We all have to learn that what we hold dear (even dearest) and take most for granted might be wrong, and probably is if it harms, hinders or manhandles any other person. We must wrestle daily, moment to moment, with every notion we have never really considered or else we are making less of ourselves, of our humanity, than is required of everyone for the gift of life itself. Socrates*** and the Temple at Delphi had it right long ago: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And those who do not examine and re-examine and live willing to change in honor of others… ? Well, the old Greek saying made it clear.

* — golly, I donʼt like that as a title; itʼs worse than if Lovecraft had denominated one of his stories “Arkham” or merely “Dunwich” —

** I may have just composed my longest bit of periodicity, in that immense sentence, yet.

*** Another in my small symposium of personal heroes, by the way, not that it matters whatsoever here and now.

In case the powerful (astonishingly christian) radicality of this position is not clear, this postʼs for disreputable Rep. Steve King, among so many others.

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



Fleurs Rouges

For our anniversary, The Lovely One generally receives a dozen red roses.

(“Aha!” You, the francophone, think: “Thus the title of todayʼs piddling post!” — But you would be wrong, my French-prattling friend. Read on…)

As weʼve passed our twenty-fifth several years ago and are closing in on thirty years of marital euphoria, my annual floral present has gotten pretty predictable, especially since she also gets a bouquet of flowers for her birthday in February (and this year a special blog post chock full of poems not exactly just for her). The February flowers are usually whatever the florist interprets from my request for “something springy”  (and it varies, let me tell you, from too many daisies to tiny, plentiful orchid orchids — I  liked that second phrase: please read the first of the two words as a color and the second, plural word as the type of colored flower). But the anniversary bunch has almost always been the predictable and lame twelve-pack of ruby roses (which also sometimes make their overpriced appearance on her desk at work on the Big Romantic Card Holiday, also in February). Rather pathetic and sadly boring, actually.

The hibiscus outdoors before it started its downhill slide (note the red clay pot and the floral buds that never opened, but just fell off)

Janet has made efforts to inspire me to throw my cash away on something less transient (and the sadsack blooms in some of the bouquets some of those florists have cocked together have been miserably over the hill before they even got shoved into a vase). But my eye for jewelry turned repetitious years back, forcing her after more than one unfestive Yule to exchange the lovely gem I had selected for something that doesnʼt resemble in every detail the ring/necklace/bracelet I had already offered years ago, and putting me in furious doubt of my selection abilities and methods. And donʼt even gaily imagine that I could on my own even begin to attempt to pick out clothing for her!

Years ago, we always had green and flowering plants about the house, at one point, back on Arcade Street, dozens on stands filling a whole bay window in the living room. One monster (I forget what it was) grew ten feet tall and had to be staked (with old nylons, naturally) to one of my bookshelves here in our current living room (I think that was the overinflated camel that broke the wifeʼs tolerant back). But she tired of those, although I know I enjoyed the extra wintertime oxygen in the house, and since the early or mid-Nineties our house has been barren of flora — inside (she has always gone wild about potted flowers outdoors in spring, summer and fall — in fact, once I finish typing here I should water the few she has maintained this year, back, now that the drivewayʼs done, in our front yard). However, last winter she unwisely remarked idly that maybe some potted flowers inside might be nice again.

Thatʼs all it took. That innocent little casual utterance stuck clear in my mind, which as she well realizes forgets just about everything — at least all the things that donʼt particularly interest me. And well before our anniversary arrived (some years the flowers have been ordered the morning of the Big Day itself), I was on the phone to her currently preferred florist in Dubuque to lay claim to my chosen flowering plant — an hibiscus!

Janetʼs anniversary gift in all its repotted, blooming glory (and yes, it has a ways to go to return to its former magnificence, but now it blossoms again)

It arrived at her office in a really tiny red clay pot, deeply green and about a foot tall, filled with very red flowers (I donʼt really quite understand how florists can always get any plant to bloom at least for the day of its arrival as a gift). I got to see it when she brought the plant home that evening (I had it sent for Friday, May 21, since the anniversary itself was over the weekend), and I was pleased (that the florist had gotten it right for once and also in anticipation of the lovely thing in our hose all through the winter). We kept it on the dining room table for several weeks, until in the middle of June it was clear the poor thing was ailing — no blooms and tired leaves hanging limp and brown. Janet hoped it just wanted to be outdoors in the summery humidity, but that change made little difference, and the leaves just started to show signs of buggy interest.

I kept watering it and moved the thing into the garage to keep it from pests, but although the move back to semi-interior space seemed to brighten the plantʼs condition a little, it still lagged and never blossomed. We tried taking it back outdoors on the front steps, but the wind one day knocked it over, breaking the pot (at least cracking it plentifully). It was a fortunate accident because that incident forced me to seek out a different, larger pot and transfer our hibiscus. And in the process of moving it, I realized what had been wrong all along: the poor thing was significantly more than seriously potbound (it had just been too many years since weʼd had plants, and I guess we both had forgotten that issue, or that florists always send potted plants in the smallest possible pot from which any plant should be transferred to a more spacious home immediately). Finally stumbling onto the right course of action always makes me feel like a dunce (hmmm… if I am always forced at length into the right thing, maybe I should finally at 56 perceive the bright red indication that I am a dunce).

The repotting worked miracles. Since then the plant has revived brilliantly, blossomed and has retained blooms solidly ever since. The photo records its state back while the driveway installation was occurring, but it still looks as good. I am going to change pots again in just a few weeks to bring it inside, and we hope to enjoy the carmine splendor of Janetʼs anniversary hibiscus right through the dreary, bleak midwinter.

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

“Stars” Ten

So I weakened from my stand a week ago… Here is another dose of the science fiction story Stars in Heaven, which includes some relatively strong language (maybe).

Star Cluster

It would be nice to sleep now. He felt almost as if he were there, asleep, almost at home. Aunt Sarai’s voice seemed to tremble in his ears. But she wasn’t here. She wasn’t. Just Ghorf. And distant Daniel, restive now, and Rimmon and Jiz.

He lifted his heavy eyelids and looked again at the numberless legs and feet churning dustily by. Some were gray, brown, green, blue-shoed, black-shod, red-legged. He couldn’t keep track. Too many legs and twice as many feet. …Maybe not. —Too many anyhow.

Daniel kept looking at the sky. He wanted something to happen. He looked at his uncles, who ignored him, and then finally at his father. Ghorf was staring into the square, oblivious, as usual, to everything but himself.

“Getting late, inn’it?” Daniel was trying subtlety.

“What do you care, kid?” Jism snarled. Ghorf just kept staring away, though a dim sound rumbled in his chest. Daniel seemed poised but frustrated. He waited, but no one else said anything.

“How long we gonna stay here?” Daniel persisted, making his plea considerably more obvious.

Ghorf glared at his son with a nasty grimace. “As long as I say, Daniel. As long as I say.”

“But it’s time we were going… Inn’it?”

“Like I said, Daniel. What’s it matter to you?” Ghorf’s face was taking on its ugly look; that redness made the boy feel queasy. “We got stuff to sell.”

“And none of it’s gone anywhere yet,” Jism contributed, still testy. His acerbic voice twisted around the boy’s head like fumes from day-old empty ale bottles.

“Yeah. So shut yer face and keep still. We’ll go when I say. When I say.”

“Leave him be, Ghorf. This’s gotta be boring for a kid.”

“Shove it, Rim. He’s mine and he’ll mind. And keep his big mouth shut.”

“Like freck I will.” Daniel released what he’d been holding—not all of it, just what had been building up today.

“Huh!? Whadja say, kid?” Ghorf looked purple in an instant.

“You heard me.” Daniel’s face, too, looked nasty. The father and son were glaring at each other like contorted mirrorimages, both filled with a parallel rage. An explosion was coming. Rimmon backed away a step or two, but Jism leaned his knifeface toward the fight.

Ghorf rose to his feet, rumbling, bearlike, his little pigeyes redder than ever. Daniel got up, too, not retreating, glaring directly at his old man. This was it. This was the moment toward which his entire life had been constructed. The tension held yet, poised, nearly in balance.

Ghorf took one step toward his son, his arms swaying, right hand fisted.

Crouched by the boothside, the boy felt sick. Suddenly all his weariness seemed to condense, focus into his stomach and his eyes, the back of his throat. He felt sick. He felt it twisting inside and then rising from his stomach. No longer tired. Sleepiness evaporated in the abrupt biliously acidic feeling that sprouted low and then erupted from beneath his heart.

He vomited. Green and purple smoky liquid spattered the gray-brown dirt beyond his knees, speckling Daniel’s left foot. It smelled like sour wine (like Jism’s voice sounded), like fried vermin for Saturday night supper (When had he had that last? Three months back?) and oat cakes and battery acid all mixed up with snot and other things. He saw, smelled and retched again.

Ghorf reacted first. “Whuh the freck—? Whuddaya doin’, ya mealy brat?”

“Pukin’, seems to me.”

“Lid it, Jiz.”

“Lid yerself, Rim.”

“What’s yer problem?“

“Make the kid stop!” Ghorf’s hand darted at the boy, grabbing his hair.

“Think this’ll bring in business?” Rimmon sneered.

“Let him go, Ghorf. He’s not well.” Jism was defending him? Another hand smacked the hand in his hair; he felt stunned as he was released. Vaguely, he realized that Jism and Ghorf were faced off, glaring at each other, over him. He could feel the heat from their bodies. Daniel stepped closer, beside Jism.

Rimmon was fretting. “Oh, this is good. Business’ll flood in if we’re fighting.”

“It’s yer wife’s slop he’s upchuckin’ there. —Not that I blame him none.” Did Ghorf want everyone against him, all together?

Rimmon held quiet and still. Would he fight, too? The sultry air seemed filled with static electricity, but it was only antagonism, sparking out from everywhere, focused at Ghorf still looming over the boy’s wretched head. The big man was breathing heavily; he’d eaten garlic for breakfast as well. Daniel’s left foot was twisting in the dirt.

The boy felt no better. His gut still coiled, cramped and congealed. And it came again.

All over Daniel’s leg.

“That freckin’ does it! I’m outta here.” Daniel landed a kick with that filthy foot hard in the boy’s gut—once, again; the world looked green; he felt it coming one more time—and Daniel was gone, leaping away and opening a doorway of sunlight and air.

“Daniel!” Ghorf sputtered. “Get back here, boy!”

He spewed once more.

“Ah, shiva! Someone shove a rag in that kid’s mouth.” Ghorf smashed the boy’s head aside with a solid fist and took off himself, chasing Daniel. The boy flopped down in the dirt, into his own vomit, things he saw wrenching sideways, Ghorf’s sandals slapping puffs of dust as he thudded out of sight, sideways. Other feet, too… The dazzling sunlight seemed to dim a bit with each footfall—not-so-bright, faded now, turning to late afternoon, grayer, dimmer yet, going dark, black…

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

Television Novelites and Quandries

Janet and I have a new television! (Yes, the wild spending of dough seems to be at flood stage, although we are still awaiting the call from the furnace guy to let us know when he intends to install his particular expensive improvement.) Itʼs a flatscreen, and itʼs not very large. But it is new, and novelty is a good excuse for a post.

Not the new TV, but rather the old new TV, the Sony, that I wound up writing more about

More than two years ago, in June of 2008, we switched from cable service to satellite TV. Having been at the hard-hearted cruelties (thatʼs meant to be a witty inversion of “tender mercies” — a favorite movie of ours by the way, in this year of Crazy Heart, so similar but so very different and also a Robert Duvall project, twenty-five years later) of Mediacom for decades (I recall having their “service” to my little black-and-white TV perched precariously on my desktop, and on which I watched most of the BBC Shakespeare complete series, when I lived in the upstairs apartment on Matteson Street, an era which ended in the summer of 1981, when I met The Lovely One), we finally decided to give change a chance. Anything had to be better.

Yes, we had heard the tales of thick cloudcover or heavy rain (or snowstorms) precluding satellite reception. However, in most of those cases, we usually had problems with Mediacom anyway (they, after all, received most if not all of their signals from satellites to process and transmit along wires to our home). Besides, Janetʼs folks, whom we will see this evening, had satellite service, and they liked it. So change seemed the thing to do. We had made up our minds (probably by the beginning of the year, 2008, thanks to the Shrubsʼ deletion of analog broadcasting in the United States).

We finally did something about our resolution when our old TV died. We had bought it in 1982 when the Sixties piece of furniture Janet had received from her parents met its demise, so the official antique (they keep telling me anything that is twenty-five years old qualifies) had done its duty and gone beyond. (I think we set the old thing at the end of the driveway for mysterious passers-by to take for free, and it worked!) So we had to get a new television set or give up watching TV, God forbid. We made the predictable choice.

Like every other American consumer, we trudged off to our nearby box stores to see what was what. We were unsavvy enough to realize that we would probably be moving up to a flatscreen television (if thatʼs really “moving up”), assuming we could afford such a thing. After some brief investigations — beginning I believe at our local Wal-Mart, ironically, and including visits to Cedar Rapids and Davenport and conversations with the Nortons — we ended up at the Best Buy store in Dubuque, where we settled, because I had such love for their Trinitron tubes, on a Sony model (not as big as the guys really thought we should buy, but larger than anything we had ever owned or watched) with what looked like a good, sharp picture in the store (although I still have no idea if Sony is really reputable in these new technologies of flatscreens). In completing the transaction, not only did we acquire a new credit card (all the better to disperse that pretty large cost over twelve months interest-free, as I later did with this computer through Apple) but this purchase qualified us for a decent reduction on DirecTV satellite service prices, if we signed up through the store as new subscribers. So we did.

On our anniversary, we had plans to eat out elegantly in Galena (at the Perry Street Brasserie, a great if really expensive restaurant), and unwisely picked up the television that day, which I had then to stuff into the storage space behind the seats so it would be “safe” while we ate our celebratory dinner in Illinois. Although Janet had made me spring for the additional expense of Geek Squad* service to hook up the new TV once the satellites had been installed, I did get the behemoth out of its box and onto its stand (and onto the new TV stand we had also bought on clearance) and attached correctly to the cable until the satellite guy could arrive, about two weeks later.

The new TV, a 19" Magnavox

We had noticed at the store then that a small flatscreen was going to run us considerably over two hundred bucks, if we ever chose to replace our bedroom monitor. What we bought when the time arrived last weekend came in about a hundred dollars less than those models had listed.

We needed a new TV in the bedroom because I gave ours away to the Dubuque Museum of Art so they could use it in an installation (the how and why for that donation is part of another story that I will tell you later). Janet delivered the antique (almost as old s the big one that died back in 2008) to its new owners last Friday, and on Sunday she had us out shopping in Davenport. Actually, we had started on Saturday by checking out what was available for how much at Wal-Mart, when we dropped off my new prescriptions. Of course, we recognized none of the brand names there or at any of the other places we wound up looking (although we did discover that little TVs at least run about ten bucks less in Davenport than they do in Maquoketa). We finally went for a Magnavox (and we donʼt even know if that hoary old brand has any valid reputation in the world of LCD or not), but its picture looked good at Samʼs Club and still does at home.

Now the only issue is that we may or may not need to upgrade the satellite box in the bedroom. The old analog TV didnʼt need a digital connection. The new one shows the picture just fine, just smaller (and squarer) than the digital image would be. Hmmmm… to spend more money or not… Or to finally use the opportunity of the converter upgrade to cancel the overly expensive movie channels that we still have in our subscription but donʼt watch because those channels really donʼt run good, interesting films …

Food for thought. And some day, action.

* Actually, we didnʼt get the Geek Squad back in 2008 (although we had done so for her laptop computer a few years earlier, the successful purchase of which is probably what drove us toward Best Buy for the big TV). The satellite installer handled a complete, free hook-up (including all our extra devices, such as VCRs and DVD players).

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

The Nine of Stars

Nope. Not a new suit in the deck of cards (not even the Tarot deck), although I was pleased to be able to invent a title that suggested just such a novel card. This is just the next piece of the opening chapter/short story from Stars in Heaven. Hey. Itʼs Sunday, and I seem to have fallen into a trap. I will even be generous today and offer nearly a thousand words. Enjoy. I hope.

Reading right to left (like Hebrew or — Rightists gasp! — Arabic), itʼs angry Moose and Squirrel, Dahlink!

Just thinking about the long trek to the city could make him entirely exhausted, although he had slept very well and for a long time each night since their arrival.

Uncle Rimmon’s house lent itself to sleep at night at least. That had surprised him. It was so noisy. Everywhere. But somehow at night, jammed amidst all these people, above you below you all around you, lying on the floor in Uncle Rim’s three-room flat between Daniel and Jism (who snored), believing you’d never fall asleep, wishing for the dream silence of home (once Ghorf had drunk himself unconscious)… suddenly it was morning and you had slept the whole night through, no wakening whatsoever.

Still he felt so tired now, and the things his eyes beheld seemed to be wavering and pulsing in the immense heat.

The journey took forever. Day after day after day, walking the dusty roads away from home, trailing along after Daniel and the two men and the three horses, Ghorf in no mood for rest talk. After about a week they even took lunch while walking. He felt as though he could still touch the fruit juice sticky on his chin and chest, trying so hard to stick his head far forward and bite as he trotted along.

“Move it, ya damn brat. Serve you right to be left out here lost, wouldn’t it?” And a thwack from Ghorf’s big walking stick. “Now keep up!” As if stumbling in pain, his arm or back absolutely useless from the shock, could help him keep up. And don’t beg to ride. The horses were along to carry the stars, not worthless whiners who didn’t know when they had it good. Thought he hurt, did he? Ghorf would show him what real pain was all about, he would. Would he like that, would he?

No matter what in his life, the boy realized of a sudden, there was always a shadow. Not Daniel, though he had been truly terrifying in the past. But Ghorf. Even Daniel’s behavior—first the poundings, then this new thing, this Escape—derived actually from Ghorf, from Daniel’s own turmoil with his father and his ways. The boy wasn’t the only one to suffer from Ghorf’s savagery. Strange as it seemed to realize, he understood now that Daniel suffered too. Ghorf beat him, his own son, just as freely as he battered the boy. Daniel just passed on what he had received, and so the boy took double clubbings. Unlike Daniel he had no one to transfer it onto.

Ghorf. Always Ghorf. His very name the sound of gagging bloody phlegm in your throat.

Ghorf’s nagging, croaking, sneering voice lancing your concentration as you picked stars, worse than thinking of the dust. The dust was always there, omnipresent, but you might just get used to being alone on your own out there in the brilliance of potential death, when suddenly his irritating nonsense filled your helmet and your head. Him sitting back on the veranda, sucking down beers. Ghorf never picked stars—”done enough o’ that when I was a boykid. Your turns now. So get to it! And damn-don’t miss none, neither.”

And your days and nights, daydreams and nightmares for these last six weeks, slogging along the dusty roads to the city. Long days, hard days, waking well before sunrise, choking down cold scraps of last night’s greasy supper—rancid meat you carried most of the way from home, rockhard blackbeans barely cooked, and rice of course—even while you were chasing down the horses and packing up bedrolls and repacking the burdens and making sure the fires were completely out and everything else while Ghorf sat on what Daniel always called his fatass, giving orders.

Whacking you with sticks he’d found, whaling on you when he felt really pissed. Leaving long darkblue welts that slowly turned greenblue then yellowgreen over the long weeks. Chopping right through your skin. “Won’t work, willya? Then bleed fer it, bratkid.”

And Daniel: “Coulda been worse, kid. Coulda been me. Glad you’re along this year. Damn glad.”

But they both got their share. And then some. More than their shares. More than anyone could have ever deserved in a whole long lifetime, in a spacer’s lifetime even. Ghorf seemed almost to feed on their pain, gaining strength from every unjust beating. He was like some dynamic force of nature, bigger and more awesomely powerful than anything the boy’s little mind could conceive. Stronger and more terrifying than he had any need to be.

It had been Ghorf, all along Ghorf that had made Daniel seem so much less consequential. Daniel’s daily torment was a kind of attention, which is why its absence this last year left a longing, that dim, strange yearning of some kind. With Ghorf, inattention was a blessing.

Perhaps it was Ghorf’s neglect since they had arrived that made Uncle Rim’s place seem restful…

From here on, the exposition is pretty much concluded and things start to happen (which may mean this is the last of these posts, too — sorry, Colleen).

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

The Book Junkie

Whatʼs wrong with reading? I listed it among the vices that I enjoy, here on August 13. And I know that most of my readers (yes, including especially you, Colleen) may not understand why such a reading addict as myself would include reading as a vice. From the lessons of my personal experience, I should like to explain.

…if I ever would…

One of the least pleasant duties I had to endure as a teacher was lunch supervision. (I was also not overly successful or pleased with study hall oversight, hall monitoring, useless home-room touchy-feely time watchdog, standardized test administrator, rowdy school bus manager or dance chaperone. Can anyone see the pattern? I make a very poor unofficial cop, either inept and unintentionally overlooking what was supposed to be wrong action or too sternly stepping in unnecessarily. Standing around watching kids have “fun” in order to prevent and/or intervene against objectionable activities, of which I might personally not even genuinely disapprove, or worse, tolerate group mania that I found particularly obnoxious, struck me from the beginning of my educational career as the vilest waste of my time imaginable. Besides, in every one of those situations, the permissible/objectionable distinction on behavior was never particularly clear, and I always felt dirty when we monitors let some kid, or group of scoundrels, get away with what another got exiled for, inequality before the selfjustifying and selfimporant petty authorities being one of the most questionable aspects of education, public and private [which is often worse with the favoritism], that history and society have permitted to evolve.) Until the Nineties, all Andrew teachers had to serve periodic weeks regulating the students at lunch, and the weeks I had to serve were torturous tedium for me (and a waste of time that I could better put to reading/grading work or at least composing the next dayʼs announcements for the daily bulletin). Furthermore, the minutes I had to spend looming over the excited eaters seemed to stretch subjectively into protracted hours. At least, being unpleasant, the details of those tedious (nearly) halfhour sessions of timewaste I have mostly forgotten. However, a single incident from that extensive experience, inspired some periodic but valuable meditation.

At one time the older and younger kids must have been allowed to overlap their time in the (tiny) lunchroom, or else I was supervising early or otherwise in the lunchroom unnecessarily (me not ever eating hot lunch during my entire career, for no good reason, as the Andrew cooks were always top-notch). For whatever reason, I was present when various primary children/grades were in the lunchroom to overhear/witness a teacher reprimanding one of her pupils for a major eating-time sin: reading a book at the table! At the time, I was horrified. Getting our youthful charges to read (or by the age I encountered them, back to reading at all) was and is a horrendous challenge. To prevent one from doing what we cajoled/ordered/tricked kids into attempting seemed contrary to sense and our purpose as teachers.

I know the instructor was merely imposing an old tradition from many (if not most) families that mealtimes should be social experiences for the kinfolk. I believe my own mother wished us (an exquisitely reading group of kids and parents) to speak and practice the skills of society when eating (we are also an acutely unsociable group — if that is not an oxymoron — of intensely introverted shy people). However, being a reticently pensive, withdrawn and socially awkward person myself, I (who had my own book with me to read during the dull banality of my supervisory duties) took unexpressed offense at the rebuke, although the child dutifully and quietly put away the offending volume, and rather theatrically made an affected display of perusing my own tome (which I am sure no one noticed or considered in the least). I wanted to make ostentatious my preference for reading at any time and in any place or manner.

I am one of those people who always has a book on my person. No matter how dark the party or eyeshatteringly distracting the activity, I come prepared, by reading, to cope with the possible boredom the artifice of social situations invariably imposes. (I also come prepared to write, thus my — now infamous — notebooks and the geekish, multipocketed vests I perpetually wear. Evidently, any selfcontained activity short of video games or cell phoning is preferable to shy-boy than relentlessly commonplace conversations.) Those imaginary folks within the covers of my publication are somehow better than the real people among whom I find myself. Always. Without fail.

from the Dictionary program, standard and preinstalled on my iMac

And thatʼs one (perhaps the most important) of the negative issues about reading. The habit withdraws farouche individuals even more than otherwise into themselves. (And I just used, thanks to the digital thesaurus, a word entirely new to me!) This quibble against reading may seem petty, but any number of other people in my life (weʼll use The Lovely One herself as a single example) have suffered embarrassment and indignation at my self-centered public behavior. And I have undoubtedly missed out on all kinds of possible human interaction (and personal growth and satisfaction therefrom) by hiding behind/within a book instead of talking to people. Thatʼs sad.

Moreover, reading is addictive, no joke. At least for me (I hope in times past only) my interest in the fictional events of a novel (or the interestingly philosophical issues of a nonfiction treatise) could cancel any awareness of the actual, exterior world around me, and I would (okay, often still do) pull out the book in preference to completing or even remembering my actual, mundane responsibilities. We reading addicts (I wonder if there even could be a twelve-step program for such isolates by nature, choice and preference) share lots of behaviors and attitudes with junkies, alcoholics and other antisocial obsessives. I have had to take myself in hand and force me to regard reality and real duties as significant, and my selfish withdrawal into fiction has made life miserable for poor Janet (hey, just Friday I neglected to call a guy about replacing our furnace because I got enthralled with finishing The Thin Man, and Nick Charles, by the way, like his creator is clearly an alcoholic).

Probably, that elementary teacher had more right on her side in preempting that child from a life of literary addiction than this poor reading fiend could admit at the time.

…Hello. My name is John, and I — …am a book junkie…

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