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The Cook Fire


There is this demon in my lower brain.

Call him the Devil.  Call him Charlie Russell.

He guzzles alcohol to dull his pain

and rustles calves beside the Little Mussel.


Why is he pained?  Perhaps because the sky

is scared to call the badland its horizon.

Perhaps because a pony on the fly

shies from the shorthorns of a painted bison.


One of the Russells hanging in my head

captures the struggles of a grizzly bear,

twice-roped, spread-eagled, kicking apart a bed

of coals and ashes in his huge despair.


What overcomes insensate fear of fire?

Abandon, or invincible desire?


Timothy Murphy



Author's note:  C.M. Russell was a Montana artist
who died of alcoholism in 1926.


From Very Far North, The Waywiser Press, London,
England, 2002.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

by Grapholina

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