Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Revisiting Poems in Frigid January—Murfin Verse


"Thus old Orion does his somersault across the heavens..." 

We are in the middle of a brutal string of sub-zero temperatures days this year here in McHenry County.  All of that following the biggest snowstorm in four or five years.  My garbage bins are full and frozen in piles of snow along the street with no pickup for three days.

More than 20 years ago on an even colder night I was taking the garbage and recycling out in the wee small hours of the morning to the curb for pick up.  It was one of those crystal nights.  I looked up.


Suddenly the Stars

Suddenly the stars

     unseen since god knows when—

     explode against the Arctic night.


No blank shelf of stratus bars them,

     no haze or mist obscures them,

     no scudding cirrus race the wind to hide them.


The fierce orange glow of pollution

     cannot obscure them.


Thus old Orion does his somersault

     across the heavens,

     ursine dippers pivot, reel

          upon bright Polaris’s steady blaze,

     forgotten constellations process

          with timeless dignity,

     long –lost Milky Way splatters half across the sky.


Once folk knew these stars,

     measured life blood by their glow,

     fixed on them for certainly against death and chaos,

     steered by their light where no marking showed he way,

     found their gods among them,

          and sacrificed to them in sacred duty.


But years have passed,

     these stars unseen, unrecognized,

     nor even missed

     amid a world of roofs, electric lights,

     other things to do, other lives to lead—

          until this night,

               when they come a calling

                    and change everything.


—Patrick Murfin


This poem appeared in a slightly different form in We Build Temples in the Heart published in 2004 by Skinner House Books of Boston.  Autographed copies are available upon request for $8 including postage. Post a request in the comments or E-mail pmurfin@sbcglobal.net with your request and a mail address.  


Years later I woke up in a near panic over this.

Process, you ask.  How do you create a poem?  Here’s one way.  Pathetic when you think about it.

                                A vintage douche bag ad.

The Poet’s Nightmare 

I wake up in a drenching sweat                  



            for want of a word     

            for a douche bag.


No, not some low life idiot—

            the thing

            that hung once

            in the bathroom

            that smelled of lavender

            where stockings dripped

            from the shower rod

            and steam misted

            the pink flamingo decals

            on the mirror.


I need the word that will not come

            with consuming urgency.


It has a place in a line of verse

            spelling itself out

            in hand carved wooden

            Gothic type blocks

            on old linen paper.


A hundred times it seems

            that it is almost there

            ready to fall into

            its urgent place.


And vanishes.


—Patrick Murfin

January 22, 2015

3:43 am


                                    German Gothic woodblock type font.


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