Time to finally wrap up my sporadic series of posts featuring my juvenilia as published in Apotheosis, the Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois student literary magazine way back in 1967, which a keen historians will note was shortly after the invention of the wheel. I bet you thought the torture would never end.
I was way over represented in the little book, probably simply because I had the audacity to dump the most material, short prose and poetry alike, into the selection file. At any rate, most everything I submitted got printed, which is an indictment of the editing skills of 17 year olds.
Both of these two short poems have spring themes and were completed shortly—probably just days—before the final submission deadline. Inspired by my Advance Placement English Literature class which had a text book with a generous selection of poetry—something current high school students are seldom are even shown—I had been seriously reading verse on my own for the first time. And it showed.
The first verse proved that mere exposure to quality poetry was not sufficient to inoculate me from committing crappy imitations. Although I had a potentially interesting central image, I had no idea what the hell to do with it. I over explained it and contorted a closing. The piece was inspired by one of the late evening rambles I had lately taken up, mostly on the assumption that it was what broody, melancholy young poetic geniuses did.
A Midnight Stroll Through Early Spring
When the midnight sky is indigo purple rubber
stretched taught over a lamp
and pin pricked a million times,
smally sliced once in cuticle shape
so that the light from the lamp
gleams though—but dimly, dimly
And when beneath the rubber sky
a hostile light of glaring nakedness
strung loosely over the street
dances in the wind
Then, because the light dances
and the wind plays also
on the black lace twigs
of the high tree tops
The intricate shadows thus cast
move smoothly and rapidly
over the tender, wet nurtured lawn
and dirtied, cracked sidewalk
And I walk there in anguish
and step upon the moving shadows
and crush them thus
upon the dirtied, cracked sidewalk
—Pat Murfin ‘67
The second poem was a blatant attempt to ape the style, as far as I understood it, of e.e. cummings with a dash of the Beats a la Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It’s a little better and shows some dim promise. The most astonishing thing about it was that with its semi-graphic abortion image it was printed at all in a high school publication. The only explanation is that faculty advisor Richard Gragg slipped it passed Principal Nicholas T. Mannos because he was sure the boss would never slog through the effusions of pimply faced, hormonal teenagers. Likewise conservative parents, of whom the school had plenty, evidently chose only to scan their own progeny’s contributions. My own mother did read it and nearly fell out of her chair, but she hardly dare draw more attention to her shame by storming the school and demanding the magazine be squelched and recalled.
April is a bad month for Coke
and the flies
gather on the droppings
while the clods slip off
the steal plowshare.
Robins die with boyish arrows
in their throats,
round and again
on silver-slick grass
of the graveyard.
Abortion with a knitting needle
and greasy hands
the expected rebirth
April is a very bad month for Cokes.
—Pat Murfin ‘67