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Letter to Timothy Murphy


Some lines to you in Habbie stanza,

A wee taut daft extravaganza,

Lubricated by three canza

            Scottish beer-O;

Slug such here, and any man's a

            Brief mad hero!


I'm pleased to see your verses, poet

Of certain gift and graced to know it,

For lacking that, you cannot grow it,


No matter how you dung or hoe it,

            Growth will not bless.


Your Sunset at the Getty's fine.

In fact I'd almost wish it mine,

So taut and spare in word and line,


Dark poem of all pomp's decline—

            The end of sowing!


No art without such knowledge can

Matter a damn to thinking man

Whether in farm or caravan,

            That is all one;

That knowledged edge is better than

            Bland chirping on.


Your mind is fogged with the barley-bree?

Frankly, it's the same for me.

The luminous masters' verses flee

            The whiskied brain-box;

Preparation for the threnody

            Of the stopped clocks.


Bunnahabhain and Black Label

Cowp poets in below the table,

Gift them with the tongues of Babel,

            Ranting, loud;

Yet doubly—though barely able

            To stand up—proud!


Whisky, grief's companion, came

To stake its visionary claim

And show the limits of Earth-fame

            In pickled brains;

That roof, nor page, nor face, nor name

            In time remains.


The world's a larach at the last,

All splendour's true iconoclast,

Open to the gutting blast

            And constellations;

Each future's seed its waiting past,

            And silenced nations.


But what of that, we've verse to make

Through city ruin and earthquake

For little but the making's sake

            When all is said:

So down with gloom, the old heartbreak,

            For verse is bread!


Your syntax punches on the nose,

While mine jouks to avoid such blows,

Not "strained"—your word—though far from prose,

            As I admit;

Though often with this poem's flows

            I score a hit!


I want my poems to all be knock-outs,

Oases in a land of droughts,

Bright axe-strokes in my mind of doubts,

            As Murphy's are;

But ach, my own conviction shouts

            Its thrawn exemplar!


Hell, I'll have to leave that style to you,

Be to my complex syntax true

As world is full of many a hue,

            Forby black/white;

As the world's ship has a motley crew,

            So poets write.


Yet this raised glass to wish you, there

Across three thousand miles of air

In those sight-losing vistas, where

            Your each verse ploughs,

Good whisky, poems, no despair—

            And happy sows.


Gerry Cambridge



From Madame Fi Fi's Farewell: And Other Poems,
Luath Press Ltd., Edinburgh, Scotland © 2003.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

by Grapholina

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