Sunday, October 03, 2010


This summer has been tough for Tim Barrus: more broken bones, more surgery, more morphine, and a major boy-death, nearly unbearable for the whole group. There has been a regrouping, a creative shift. Now there’s a bit of respite.

some god's arms

some god's arms/ two male children sit with me this morning as the sun has risen to touch this blue ridge mountain with the geese are moving south/ south/ vast flocks of them and their whispers to the still open sky that will be slaughtered by the darkness of tonight soon enough/ the boys are writing poetry/ actually pounding it out in a great plowing of the veins and longing that pierces them to roots/ i call this my bathing with the gods/ all the gods have voices, too/ i listen to their poetic languages weave and spill through the thistles down by the lake where the wind trout are jumping/ the wind trout are jumping/ i do not return them when i catch them but we have great feasts even as our half-dead fall into the sea/ two male children are writing poetry/ jaws clenched tight/ eyes intense/ they have far, far too much to say/ too much childhood has been lost to meatgrinders with their wheels and gears moving backwards but not through time/ time moves in an arch like electrons do/ riding this horse through the uncut wheat bruised and blue/ we are sitting here on the front porch (i am drinking coffee and reading carolyn) and they are pounding, pounding/ i cannot leave them out as if they did not exist/ because they do/ and today we will run these dogs who are bugging me for food/ this is my church/ they are my sacrament of blood (infected as it is) in a chalice and the bread is made from corn by the witch who lives at the bottom of crow hollow/ we call them hollows here/ sandburg lived three houses down/ carl left a highball crystal glass for whiskey beside his chair and a copy of lolita next to the bed he died in/ i have walked through that house a thousand times/ write poetry i tell these boys/ and the gods just might speak to you, too/ it is really all i know to do/ as i am lost and man is lost and the poets inform us of our missing pieces and harvest of languages that roll like thunder and the rain i am told will hit by noon/ my flatrock tomatoes are big as daddy's fists/ he would have eaten his with salt/ i can hear the sandburg goats bleating in the distance/ it must be time to feed them/ feed them/ i am feeding them these boys words like the shafts of grass that run not unlike the horses that will carry us in the rain today down to the lake where we will fish because the trout will take the flies we tied on the flight to flatrock where we would pound our words out to the gods whether they are listening or not/ exist or not/ bellowing or not/ fresh from hell or not/ looking back or not/ soaking wet with us as we will be laughing/ or not/ our poetry finished/ or not/ fixed to the abstractions we find in those languages i would say or not but it's the poetry that fixes us even as we search for the sleeping we might find in some god's arms/

(You can see the accompanying photo at Tim’s Facebook page.)

Is this worship or Sunday School? Is there a difference if both are done well? They merge and emerge.

“In Jewish tradition, the Psalms were actually sung in front of the Tabernacle, and then later during the reign of King Solomon, when the Temple was completed, they were sung from the steps of the Temple.” The boys are singing from the porch in Carolina. Silently, in their hearts. “Some bear the Hebrew designation shir (Greek ode, a song). Thirteen have this title. It means the flow of speech, as it were, in a straight line or in a regular strain. This title includes secular as well as sacred song.”

Sandburg is so seemingly pastoral and idyllic. His words seem too familiar to be wise. But he’s a helluva lot cagier than Polonius. And easier to put to music as well.

Prairie Mary

HERE'S A SANDBURG POEM, IN CASE YOU'VE FORGOTTEN WHAT HE'S LIKE or given the state of our schools, never knew.
A Father To His Son

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
'Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.'
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.


Art Durkee said...

I remember a cartoon I cut out and saved for some years from the Sunday colored section of one of my Dad's newspapers he liked to read. (Dad was much more of a news junkie than I.)

It was a "Rick O'Shay" comic. In it, the two main characters were seen in front of a church. It was Sunday, and the service was about to being. One of the cowboys asked the other if he was going to come in and worship. The other cowboy said, No, and they went their amicable ways.

The rest of the comic consisted of panel after panel of the second cowboy, usually seen as the more disreputable of the two, riding ever higher into the mountains through gorgeous meadows and groves of aspen.

The last panel had him sitting on his horse overlooking a beautiful mountain vista, very like what I see when I travel in western Montana or Wyoming or New Mexico.

I can't remember the words that cowboy says, sitting there on the mountain, but it was along the lines of what you and Tim write about here. It was something like, this is my church, out here in the hills, with such a view.

And that's my church, too. I find the Divine to be everywhere, not just inside a little white wooden box with windows and doors.

I wrote a poem about that, some years ago, too. I guess I've always felt this way.

prairie mary said...

The gunslinger was Hipshot Percussion (I think), who was Rick's less conventional friend. (Everyone loves a bad boy!) That strip was up on my bulletin board for so many years that it finally disintegrated.

Stan Lynde ( is a long-time good friend, since 1961 when Bob featured his work at the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife. He's had rocky times but his faith has pulled him through. He's a little more inclined to come indoors these days.

Amazing that you should make this connection!

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

Mustn't forget ol' Gaye Abandon. She kinda reminds me of you Mary. Thanks for the Stan Lynde memories Art, I loved his work and got to watch him at work once in a downtown office in Great Falls?

Seems there were regular pieces featuring Hip Shot communing with the "Boss". Here's one of them:

Art Durkee said...

Hipshot! It was indeed Hipshot, in one of his communions with The Boss.

Thanks for filling in the details. And for passing on that Xmas strip with the Boss. Very nice indeed.