Monday, September 15, 2014

LATE DAYS – poem by George Murray

George Murray wrote the poem LATE DAYS around the same time as EXEUNT, typing the final version in June of 2005. He whimsically noted, parenthetically, that it was “Finally” finalized at that time, with a note at the top right of the page (see image below)…
From its title, you will correctly surmise, that the poem LATE DAYS is another related to George Murray contemplating his end of life.

In these late days,
I drive past
runners, cyclists, lovers,
all who now command the roads
I traverse daily.
I swerve past them,
their straining bodies,
of two minds as I do so.

Copyright ©George Murray, 2005

Sunday, August 10, 2014

EXEUNT - poem by George Murray

George Murray wrote his own eulogy, a poem titled “EXEUNT”. I don’t think he intended it to be his own eulogy, or even part of it, but when he died in 2010, his children all agreed that this poem was the perfect sendoff.  Here it is on the original typed page, and below, as it was printed on the prayer card  handed out at George Murray’s funeral, along with a late-life photograph of him…

The Episcopal minister who performed the service was startled and moved by the poem.  Startled that it was written by the deceased a few years before his death, and contained a blessing.  Moved by the lovely words, the reconciliation, readiness, and satisfaction with his life.  The minister recited EXEUNT as part of the service, and we all wept.
The word “exeunt” as the poem’s title is exquisite and perfect, with multiple meanings.  In the original Latin, exeunt it is the third-person plural, present active indicative of the verb “exire” which means: go, sail, march move, or out, forth, away, or pass (away), expire, perish and/or die.  Apropos, clearly!  But even better, the modern usage (since Shakespeare) of “exeunt” is: as a stage direction in a printed play, to indicate that group of characters leave the stage.  Ha!  Not sure if he wanted the plurality (i.e. “exeunt Hamlet and Polonius”) to refer to the multiple characters within himself, or if he was ignoring it, and taking artistic license as he prepared to exit the stage…
Knowing my dad, he had all these definitions and usages in mind as he titled the poem. Perhaps he began with that one-word title, and then wrote the poem around it.  We’ll never know, but please enjoy it nonetheless…

And when he died
in his bed,
the bright angel
of his deepest hopes
left him
and wandered about
his rooms
for a last look,
then blessed him
and was no longer
that he hadn’t
done enough.
Copyright ©George Murray 2005 (approximately)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

IN THE ACT - poem by George Murray

I know I say this repeatedly, but this poem is very special to me.  OK, I admit it, many of George Murray’s poems are special to me…can you blame me?
Anyway, IN THE ACT is a great poem, but my favorite part of it is the first verse, since I first read it and the beautiful, powerful image of one self watching itself, lodged in my mind and psyche ever since.  The idea has been incorporated into many aspects of my personal and professional life, and I reference it often, to explain how one can step out side self and situation(s) to observe what is really happening, and what is really important.  I even wrote a haiku, which is lovingly stolen from it (see link at bottom of post)…
IN THE ACT is on page 13 of ACT ONE, George Murray’s self-published book of poems.  Enjoy it…

In the act of speaking
and hearing you speak,
one of my selves moved off
and stood to watch.
He saw us swimming,
toward and away from each other,
fish in a round bowl
He saw our fish mouths,
opening, closing on water,
a soundless sucking
of empty ovals,
emitting globes of air
that rise to the surface.
Fish in a round bowl
Copyright ©George Murray, 1976
*Link to my haiku, distilled (obviously) from the first verse of IN THE ACT: In the Act of hearing you speak… 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CLEAR DAY – poem (song) by George Murray, Poet.

George Murray Poet…wrote a song?  Apparently he did, because I found it among his files, folders and papers!  When I found the two yellowed sheets of heavy (18.5 x 13″) paper, folded, containing a hand-written poem/song on one page, and three pages of the same poem with musical score notation (and errors!), I asked my brother, “Dad wrote a song?!” He said, “Well…it’s not a very good song…”

It seems George Murray had fallen prey to a gimmicky “put your words to music” service offering in the mid-1960′s,  and the results were less than wonderful.  My brother said he did not remember that that the song lyrics (poem) were not so great, and the music and arrangement were dreadful…
I was intrigued when I discovered the yellowed, folded papers, because the outside front and back pages have no text or markings, so I opened them up with great anticipation. I read the poem or “song lyrics” (as you will in a moment) with great interest, and found them (in my humble opinion) to not be his best work, though they have some of his lovely recurring themes, ideas, images of life, feeling, and healing.  When I looked over at the music, I immediately noticed the arranger had substituted “dul-len” for “sullen” so he (or she) clearly had not read, understood, or really appreciated George Murray’s words!  Therefore, it was likely the song arrangement was somewhere between poor, and pablum.  If any of you are capable of reading and/or playing (piano) the tune from the images in this post, I strongly recommend that you do NOT do so, unless you have had at least two glasses of wine (George Murray preferred Burgundy), and are in the mood for a laugh or at least an eye-rolling!
Anyway, here is CLEAR DAY, a poem (song) by George Murray, Poet, which is not unworthy of a reading…  :)
Clear day, clean my eyes,
Rinse with your rivers of air
The grey day’s sullen stain;
Polish these lenses with care,
That I might see again.
Clear day, flood my mind
With images golden and tart
As your lemon-rind sun,
And open compartments of heart,
Lay siege to its garrison.
Clear day, claim my soul,
Cleanse with your multiple waters
My multiple wounds, imagined and real;
Send me your beautiful daughters
That the sons of my soul may heal.
Copyright ©George Murray, 1966
Here, in all their yellowed magnificence, are the four pages of poem (song) and musical notes:


Saturday, July 5, 2014

CATALOGUE - poem by George Murray

An unpublished poem entitled, “CATALOGUE”, written, crafted, perfected, and finalized, by George Murray in the six weeks between 1/18/1986–2/25/1986.  I suspect that on the 43rd day, he rested…  :)
I love this one in particular (and I think my siblings will agree), because it is a wry observation of life’s required, mundane, record-keeping activities, and is also comically auto-biographical, of our father. Anyone who knew George Murray, will recall how he loved to “catalogue” his world, and comment on the cataloging of others, throughout his life, until the very end.
NOTE: since his father and mother hailed from Scotland, and England, respectively, and due to his preference for an older version of the English language (post-Shakespeare and prior to modern-American), George Murray would often use the classic and/or British-English spellings and pronunciations of certain words (sometimes in public, to the chagrin of his children).  Thus “CATALOGUE” instead of “catalog” as the title of this poem…
The copy I have of “CATALOGUE” looks like a photo-copy of the original, which had been hand-typed, with worn metal, punching through a ribbon in need of replacement, on the manual typewriter I recall him using in my childhood. The page was folded in three, with one of two creases running through the sixth line of the poem (“and pounders of flesh”).  Perhaps he intended to mail this copy to someone, or he had simply folded it to fit it more easily inside his catalogue…
CATALOGUE - poem by George Murray

A keeper of records,
I record my consumption
of kilowat(t) hours
and fossil fuel,
my debts to plumbers
and pounders of flesh,
my catalogue
of needs and compulsions.
An accordian file
holds birth and death together,
joins marriage and divorce
and houses(,) coupons,
deeds, warranties,
wills and testaments.
At any time now
I will learn who I am.
Copyright ©George Murray, 1986

Sunday, June 29, 2014

THE THIN MAN, A SCULPTURE - poem by George Murray

On page 8 of “Act One”, George Murray’s book of poems, is my personal favorite, entitled, “THE THIN MAN, A SCULPTURE”.  Well, perhaps it’s not my favorite, but we (his children) grew up with two sculptures of thin men in our home, one or both of which inspired him to write this poem, so the title was often in our minds.  We still disagree on which of the two statues were his real inspiration, so here they both are, for you to see, and pass judgment on which is more likely to have inspired* the poem:

Tall and thin,
a reed for winds to play,
he stands
and fingers final bone.
For flesh to fall away
the moment of decay
need never come,
the essence numb
from word and stone
and senses that betray.
He stands alone,
the minimum of self,
all channels of the felt
destroyed, unknown.
He climbs the steep
catastrophe of bone
toward the deep
impenetrable sky
and fails to die.
Copyright ©George Murray, 1976

*This poem of my Dad’s was so embedded in my mind, I wrote a haiku (2-3-2 minimal form) inspired by it in 2012, which is posted on my haiku/senryu/photography blog: The Thin Man…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

COME THAT SPRING - poem by George Murray

On page 3 of “Act One”, the first (and only) book of George Murray’s poems, is one entitled, “COME THAT SPRING”.  The month of this blog post is June (the last week of it), with Spring a damp, blustery memory, so this poem may seem seasonally-incorrect, but its message is not. Read more than once, and enjoy…


The robin, come that spring,
May wonder at his absence
            For a while
And note how grasses cling
And twine on leaning fences
            Mile on mile.

The swallow, come that spring,
His graceful arcs attaining,
            May perceive
On glancing past a wing,
The fields in tumult gaining
            Their reprieve.

For them incomprehensible -
The air they cleave intense with
That man, the indispensable,
Has been dispensed with

Copyright ©George Murray, 1976