The Nick and Dick Show

I. Intro


I am the whiskey sloshing in a keg

lashed to a mule and bound forever West.

My muleteer has one eye and one leg.

Sooner than you, he’ll lay me down to rest.


II. Daily Themes


Al Melting had one ink pad, it was red,

only two stamps. One was the F, one A.

A small mistake, and student, you were dead!

Moorhead High School learned to compose this way.

Circles on every blot on daily themes:

write every night? On what, we asked our teacher!

He was the demon in our sophomore dreams,

the Moses from our mountain, but a preacher

whom any bright fifteen-year-old could reach.

For forty years, I didn’t dare to teach.


III. To My Rare Readers


I’ve reached an age

when it’s hard to get up in the morning.

This is a stage

you can’t pass through till you are scorning

the long march through your graduate review.

I’ve reached a rage

wished on no other. It is a churning

bound to the blank page

I cannot disengage, a turning

from me to you, as in my youth I’d strew

daisies and lilies for the likes of you.


IV. The Nick and Dick Show


Come lay a long level on both men’s heads,

the bubble meets the middle. They are tall,

and I their chronicler am pretty small,

only five ten when I am wearing Keds.

Meeting of very old and very young,

ninety and twenty-five, I’m having fun

like Feeney quartering before my gun.

Surely my young friend’s verses will be sung

with Dick’s. That is the purpose of this trip:

the countries of the air mapped by a whip.


V. Prayer for the Poets


My poet friends aren’t on a first name basis

with You, Spirit, but love them all the same.

All are the Servants of the Secret Fire,

soloists destined for our Savior’s choir.

Scorching their brains with Pentecostal flame,

cast them from their stupor, from their stasis

of the spirit. Find my pagan friends in sleep,

and plant some metaphors so true, so deep

they will become the promises we keep.

—Timothy Murphy

Published in the 2011-10-21 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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