Ave Atque Vale, Timothy Murphy

The Wanderer

There is no end
to the wanderer's sorrow.
The wisdom of Erda
queried by Wotan,
the counsel of Ragna
sung in a saga.
I'll follow tomorrow,
tomorrow if ever,
for I am no friend
of Volsung or Vala.

Timothy Murphy


Here's Tim reciting the Dirge from the Wulf, which he and Alan Sullivan had translated a few years back:



Ah, the Arts ! Oh, Humanity.

A disturbing trend:

Bach at the Burger King

If the author's name seems familiar, yes, he is the son of California poet laureat, Dana Gioia, well known author of Can Poetry Matter.   The good works have commenced, the voice is a gift, and the acorn don't fall far from the oak.

Meanwhile, here on the edge of the world, though there be drought which runs deep and wide, there be dusk, and dawn, and red dirt paths that cannot be denied.  

And of course there be dragons.  A book of essays I highly recommend: 

I've actually been quoting from this book for a couple of months now here on the outpost, and often in casual  conversation.  In addition to being a life-long advocate for the land, George is a fine writer, has a keen sense of the sciences, the arts, the land, and of course humanity -- and is imminently quotable.  He's an elder, and a sender, and it was a delight to get to know him a little at his home in Gunny a few months ago. 

Each essay in the book begins with a poem.  In recent years I've been very interested in how writers combine their prose and poems.  I have some of my own ideas up my sleeve, and am currently trying to shake them loose.  At any rate, here's one from George which introduces an essay called Lying Down with Fire that I can't resist sharing: 

The Horse: Form and Function

"Just a thing for converting hay to horseshit",
Bill said to me, looking not at me but at the horse,
Which we both were watching, leaning on the fence
At the back part of Bill's thirty-five
Being paid off month by month from his job
Digging coal for power plants he never saw.

"Never really seem to have time to ride her,"
Bill grumped, reaching into his pocket for his can,
For more of the stuff that takes ten minutes
Off the long hours and adds ten to the short ones.
But while he was thus occupied, the horse just
Took off.  Went running up the field, an easy lope
That would have been no harder for the horse
With a man on his back, even one with a belly like Bill's.

We both watched.  Mane catching the wind: thinking
What reason for a mane if there's no air to catch;
Tail streaming out behind...It was just worth watching.
It was just goddam beautiful. And at the far fence,
The horse stopped.  Stood there looking
Beyond the fence.   At what, who knew.  But then,
Even at that distance we could see it:  Lifting its tail
And dropping a load. "Like I was sayin'," Bill said. 


On a similar subject, a little something my daughter recently sent my way:

And speaking of gifts, my son sent me this, a bit of satire which emphasizes form, function, and timeliness, which my politically savvy readers will recognize:

And then there's this, by Alison Hawthorne Deming, which I've had on the shelves forever, and have finally begun reading: 

in which we are given such morsels as:

The kick of transforming a material from one state to another, from one use to another-- or to none-- is alchemy in any language.  It's a ticket into the marvelous, which is where we live every day but forget to notice, because otherwise we'd never get the errands done.

And this:

I have gone down the rabbit hole in thinking about dragons.  I have seen the bare mountain range near my home in Tucson suddenly transform into the spine of a dragon.  I have seen Vesuvius and Krakatoa breathe fire from their mouths as the earth shifts its vertebrae. I have seen a venomous dragon demand, one year, two sheep; the next year, one maiden; the next year, the king's virgin daughter.  ...So why do dragons crop up all over the planet? Here be dragons.  Here and here and here and here.  One need not fall over the edge of a distant horizon to find a dragon.  They emerge in the minds of ancient Greeks, Sufis, and Aztecs; in the art of the Chinese (for whom the dragon is the only mythical creature in their zodiac); among the Cherokee tribe and King Arthur's knights.  They are generally a blessing in the East and a curse in the West, protectors of water in India and Mexico, tyrannical despots in North Africa and Great Britain.  Dragons are monsters thrown out by the unconscious for the conscious mind to make sense of.  They take us into the weird zoology of inwardness.  


Rooster on the Loose: Construe, Construct, Construction, Culture

A culture is the ensemble of stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  
 - Clifford Gearts 

De Activation

I have decided to ration 
my daily penchant

         for distraction. 
   (So much depends 
       the whole shebang

and the fraction).  


Even as we grow old in the spring, 
the ode begins, 
it tallies forth --

it bursts through --

though I should say sometimes 
I misconstrue.  

Is that abnormal asks
 the songing toad and the soggy moon. 

replies the desert bloom,  
I'm brand new too.   


Dylan Thomas

In My Craft Or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.


Whatness, Whereness

The land was ours before we were the land's ...
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.  

- Frost

Americans today usually talk about "place" and "property" as though they were interchangeable. But if you are going to really consider "place" the first thing you have to do is separate it from the concept of property. Both place and property are matters of possession, but it's who and what are possessed, and how, that are important.  "Property" is a cultural convention whereby a person has the belief, confirmed legally by properly filed papers, that he or she possesses a piece of land by virtue of investing some money or labor in it.  "Place" on the other hand, is something related to the land that comes to possess a person.  -  George Sibley

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate.  But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street to a sacred bond.  

-Robin Wall Kimmerer

What it takes to dazzle us, masters of dazzle, is a night without neon or mercury lamps.   
-- Alison Hawthorne Deming 


But they can't have Imagination! Fer Namesake , Ursula K Le Guin

Cy Est Pourtraicte, Madame Ste Ursule, et Les Unze Mille Vierges

by Wallace Stevens

Ursula, in a garden, found
A bed of radishes.
She kneeled upon the ground
With flowers around,
Blue, gold, pink, and green.
She dressed in red and gold brocade
And in the grass an offering made
of radishes and flowers.

What I love about Le Guin is that she contained multitudes, with focus.  One minute she could say something like this:

Adults seek moral guidance and intellectual challenge in stories about warrior monkeys, one-eyed giants, and crazy knights who fight windmills.  Literacy is considered a beginning, not an end.
....Well, maybe in some other country  but not in this one.  In America the imagination is generally looked on as something that might be useful when the TV is out of order.  Poetry and plays have no relation to practical politics.  Novels are for students, housewives, and other people who don't work. Fantasy is for children and primitive peoples. Literaccy is so you can read the operating instructions.  I think the imagination is the single most useful took we possess.  It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination.
I hear voices agreeing with me.  "Yes, yes!" they cry.  "The creative imagination is a tremendous plus in business! We value creativity, we reward it!" In the marketplace, the word creativity has come to mean the generation of ideas applicable to practical strategies to make larger profits. This reduction has gone on so long that word creative can hardly be degraded further.  I don't use it any more, yielding it to capitalists and academics to abuse as they like.  But they can't have imagination.

And the next, something like this: 

People who don't worry at least a little bit about semicolons aren't likely to be writers.  

And the next:

Sleep gives us something we need, and we know it; but what it gives us is something we can't know, though we may feel it slip from us as we wake. Refreshment, is it? Solace, simplification, innocence?


A January Day

He wasn't one day and then he was
and he looked at the world’s inscrutable face
and wondered what a body does
in this inscrutable place.
What is your pleasure? he asked the enclosure
where the squirrels faced off with the birds;
but in meadow or stable, no creature was able 
to answer in human words,
 yes, none answered in human words.  

Chris Childers, (Dark Horse, Winter 2017)

I continue to agonize over a cento on the subject of walls.  This is one of those conceptual projects to which I'm stubbornly attached.  I've got the guts of it, the brick and mortar, so to speak, but can't seem to weave the lines together because, well... brick and mortar obviously don't weave.   At any rate, I've observed that the more I try to write about walls the more I write of fog, stone, sky, and river.   And of course critter. 

Even my promising little ditty on Exhibitionism and the Overexposed turned up fully clothed and underwhelming.  But this heady little rush of verse that's wrapped in fog and stone and river and critter ...it seems to want to go on forever.  

And who am I to argue ?


In this epoch of high-pressure selling
When the salesman gives us no rest, 
And even Governments are yelling
Our Brand is Better than Best,
when the hoardings announce a new diet
To take all our odor away,
Or a medicine to keep the kids quiet,
Or a belt that will give us S.A.,
 Or a soap to wash shirts in a minute,
One wonders at times, I'm afraid,
If there is one word of truth in it,
And how much the writers were paid.

                         --- Auden, from Ode, (circa 1970)


Language of the Solstice, Favors of the Moon

You are what is female
and you shall be called Eve.
And what is masculine shall be called God.

And from your name Eve we shall take
the word Evil.
And from God’s, the word Good.
Now you understand patriarchal morality.

       -- Judy Grahn

I won't let the good men go unsung
Good men throw their bodies on the lives
of their mothers and their children and their wives
and the unknown.  Good men don't die alone

Each day this year, my soul has been punched and stunned
by bullet-men ripping through the dance we do
by bully-men raping girls or threatening to
by barging-men pushing first through the doors of power

while good men act as if nothing mattered more
than to restore the faded elf to the christmas tree
to greet you every morning with toast and tea
to be the hand pressed in the hole the bullet tore

I refuse to let the good men go unsung
They are not many.  They are one and one and one ....

                        Cally Conan Davies, New Verse News

There is one story and one story only

That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

                               -- Robert Graves (Letter to Juan at the Solstice) 

The Magi

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye, 
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones 
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky 
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones, 
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side, 
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more, 
Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied, 

The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

                                 -- Yeats 


The Vanishing Point

All these years
learning to verse, 
learning to draw, 
learning to live

with my skin on,
it dawns:
there's something sublime 
about the line.  

In the beginning was the word, 
the word nobody heard,
and only the shadow, 

only the shadow 
where the hell the line goes.


It isn't where

a line begins
or where it ends,
but whether it deems
itself feigned

or suddenly, strangely


punch line 





bottom line 





front line











hard line 



main line.

Says Rudolf Arnheim, the line that describes the beautiful is elliptical.  It has simplicity and constant change, and cannot be described by a compass, as it changes direction at every one of its points.  

This could also be said of the lyric poem, particularly before beauty, science, and the arts were divorced.  

Yes, my child, all things 
come from the wild. 
Even the arts were once

If pressed, yes, okay,

Ah, art, oh, modernism!  What have you made of the horizon, what have you learned from your physics, what have you done to the line ?  The one that vanishes into eternity, into the cloud of the imagined, the line that sweeps our visionary vision up the holy moly mountain or down the deep, dark, mysterious hall --  and in so doing, connects us all ? 

Well, the divorce was an ugly one, and I suppose to speak of art this way is pretty sketchy, a bit suspicious, a little too close to religio-speak for the age of reason and enlightenment.  

A poetic line is not a wall, 
but a turn in the sudden
scheme of it all, 

a breath 
that breathes before the fall, 
a calm that comes

before the storm,
a philosophic
casting call,

a silent 
that language is limber,

a word is a bridge,
and a poem is not a wall. 

North of Mist

Just north of mist,
along the border,
  half a color
from the water,

under the kiss
of shadow's daughter,
  (two breaths backward,
one word upward),

past the rumpled
terra cotta,
  down the salve
of templed sorrow,

up the scales
of Bach, and Buddha, 
     down the moon
of broken solder,

through the eyes
of someone's father,
    in the grass
beside the water;

one part liar,
one part seer,
    one part lyric,
one part scholar,

this is the walk
we come to wander, 
    one part illness, 
one part healer. 


(North of Mist first appeared in Poetry Magazine)