Friday, July 8, 2016

Waxing Poetic—More Murfin Juvenilia

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…

April is a bad month for Coke

            and the flies

                        gather on the droppings

                                    drop, drop
            while the clods slip off
                        the steal plowshare.

Robins die with boyish arrows
            in their throats,
                        children dance
                                    round and again
            on silver-slick grass
                        of the graveyard.

Abortion with a knitting needle
            and greasy hands
                        interrupts prematurely
            the expected rebirth
                        of earth.

April is a very bad month for Cokes.

—Pat Murfin ‘67



  1. Hey, I'm in there! And the '68 one, too! You were gone by then. Well, Pat, we can totally see your budding awesomeness here! There's so much that's great about these poems!

    1. And I enjoyed seeing the work of young Carole Tobias. "Last Words" and the title-less verse that occupied the page just opposite "A Midnight Stroll..."