A Journal of Contemporary Arts 





The late Tim Murphy left behind a legacy of fine verse; and we are happy,
with the permission of his estate, to reprint a few of his poems here. 
Special thanks to
Jennifer Reeser for arranging this:




I. Indianhead Mountain, Michigan

How I remember racing through the trees,
slaloming moguls with our teenage knees,
then sweating brains out in a Finnish sauna,
     and screaming as we’d go
    diving into snow.
Wolf cubs, we were Minnesota fauna.

II. Phoenix, Arizona

     After a sweaty game
     of tennis in we came,
the Arizona Biltmore, very swanky,
where Jack mopped at his sunburn with a hanky,
     then poured a stein of gin
     tall as my freckled shin
and chugged it. I only popped a top shelf beer
     and swigged that cold one clear.
     Dad looked at Jack and me
and said “The fruit falls very near the tree.”



Sleep in a cabin. I’m supposed to lead
for I’m the Eagle, just sixteen years old.
Minus forty Centigrade is cold,
identical to Fahrenheit. How speed
my little charges up the Eagle Trail?
Forty-nine of fifty falter and fail.

We were in Blackfoot Cabin, now long gone,
lucky we didn’t die of white pine smoke.
Dreaming of it I wake up with a choke,
hoping, dear God, my nap will end with dawn.
Tomorrow, map and compass, axe and knife,
formative stage of a pubescent’s life.

The great thing about Scouting is we give
authority to teenagers like me.
Teach every Tenderfoot to fell a tree,
give them twelve laws by which a boy can live,
grow up beside the wick of a gas lamp,
then send their sons north to Wilderness Camp.



West of the River, you’ve long left the garden
of North Dakota half a day behind you.
This is a world the glaciers never bulldozed.
Bound from the South, I’m driving from the Black Hills,
Badlands ahead, and here’s White Butte before me,
its little Shark Fin, just east of the highway,
twenty-five hundred feet higher than Fargo.
Seeing it now, I know I’m truly homebound.

I stuff ten bucks into the rancher’s paybox
and climb five hundred feet above the prairie
to find pockets of snow melting in April.
Westward, Black Butte dominates the horizon,
but here’s the highest point in North Dakota,
caprocked, proudly defiant of our rainstorms,
a fastness still revered by the Lakota.
Oh what a place to strew a hunter’s ashes.


Return to Poems Menu