Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chicoan muses on "old hurts, softened by the caring"


A friend of the author sent me a little book of poems by longtime Chico resident Archie Dan Murphy. "Poem Pudding" ($12.95 in paperback from PublishAmerica) distills a lifetime of experience into simple words, words that speak of mysteries that can never be put into words.

He writes in "Sundown Blues":

Ever hear the silence.
Roaring in your ears;
Bringing tumbledown
happiness, and tears?

"Born into poverty in California," a note about the author says, "Archie Dan Murphy, an Irish Cherokee, worked many jobs before finding his passion in surgery as an operating room aide. Many children, lovers, pets and friends and experiences have been his inspiration. He currently tends his garden and reflects on life's mysteries."

Murphy's poems have been printed exactly as he submitted them to the publisher, with his own spelling and syntax intact. Friends encouraged him to get them into print, especially after a house fire some years ago destroyed much of his work. On the page the simple, almost innocent words convey between the lines a life of tumult and desire.

Sometimes Murphy is philosophical, as in "Within Each of Us":

We have within us great joy,
and great sadness.
To reconcile the two is,
the spark of life itself.
To embrace life, and become a
part of the
greater whole, justifies our existence.
In doing this, we ease
the pain of old wounds,
and it gives us the means to salvation.

But the poet is not always meditative. The very next poem is called "Drinkin' Whiskey and Eatin' Licorice."

Murphy is making sense of life by means of his art. He recognizes there is something greater than his lone existence. In "Forgiveness" he writes:

Though our lives are not perfect, can we
not count our blessings?
we not give the fates, what they have given us? Forgiveness.
One of the last
words from the cross."
Elsewhere, in "AKA Murphey," a kind of epitaph, the
poet says:
"We are gathered here,
to remember a man named
actually Murphey, Archie Dan,
born 2-17-36.
He had a
great need to do what the
Buddhists say, 'Right Work.'
Now it is
your destiny to be torch bearers. So
take heart, and persevere and
for he will be there, somewhere.
In "The Dance," the poet admits:

Beer and roses don't go together
it's true, but Miss Bartender,
they do
seem right, when I look at you.
I don't want to go home,
I'd rather be
I guess the lonely night,
is what I fear.
There were other loves, and deeper, and a simple reflection, in "Due To":

Lust, Greed and
long ago dreams, unrealized;
ponder, ponder, ponder.
It is the sole poem on the page.

But that's not the end. In "Yester-Dance" the poet says:

I put on my dancing shoes,
once each year.
I may not go dancing,
but I
put them on.
The poet has come to terms with solitude yet recognizes that through his words he is not alone. In "A Gentle Addiction" he writes:

So far, at this sundown age,
all these musings help me
fill a page. There
meaning is given life
by you, Dear Reader.
Easing pain, puzzlement and

Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.
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