Friendship Seconded

Théodore Rousseau, A River Landscape (Public Domain)


Down by the Buffalo a willow bends
      in an abandoned yard
      where summers we trained hard.
Long we were buddies, never such fast friends

as we became after my spirit change,
      finally coming around
      to faith I now expound,
unlikely candidate. You found it strange

I of all people should return to God
      from Whom you never turned.
      In your Norse heart He burned.
Hunting together mainly to applaud

Lab after Lab we whelped, hunted and buried,
      So many parts in you
      I loved (and I still do),
your lealty to the lady whom you married,

your reverence every Sunday we skipped church
      to quarter far afield,
      bag what the wild would yield,
weaving through trees our perching angels search

to flush pheasants, partridge and sharptails too,
      electrify the slogs
      of two delighted dogs—
fragrances. We humans don’t have a clue.


Stevie, what can we hope to do this fall
      when tree rows are ablaze
      on sunny maple days
and from the corn the hungry roosters call?

If I were you, I might just hunt alone,
      no need to carry me,
      but you’ll need poetry
to bear you forth and back. I can atone

for past excess with every stoic smile,
      extempore epigram,
      sandwich, Virginia ham
with Irish cheddar. Will I walk a mile?

That’s all I did last year, undiagnosed,
      thinking it was just old age,
      writing page after page
as cancer wormed its way into its host.

Best hope? Chucky lives out his life with me,
      his five or six more years
      in which laughter or tears
wrung from my rare readers are my fee

for a long life in which we’ve been best friends,
      in which we’ve knelt and played
      with puppies, knelt and prayed
for a good hunt, and then my story ends.

Published in the August 10, 2018 issue: 

Timothy Murphy, a frequent contributor to Commonweal, died on June 30 at his home in Fargo, North Dakota. His books include Very Far North (2002), Mortal Stakes and Faint Thunder (2011), and Devotions (2017). Requiescat in pace.

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Nathan Pitchford

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