Murphy’s Distress

One never knows when disaster
Will strike, and acting Fire Chief
James Murphy, unable to master
His nerves, often sighed in grief
At the ticking clock. Every moment …
Now? So when Chief Collins went
To the convention in San Francisco,
Murphy sat and waited for a blow
To be struck by malicious Fate.
Waiting, but hardly ready—
Fear was becoming one long, steady
Drag off an opium pipe. Great
Men find their destiny in a split
Second; Murphy quailed and quit.

Comments

  1. Great and great again!

    You got me beat for casual tone – the challenge is to get meter and tone to play well with one another, spoiled brats that they are. You seem to do a good job on that score.

    Love the enjambment of second to last line “…split/Second.”

    More to come?

    For to please that you would be for to be writing more and I am for to be thanking you!

    JOB

    • Quin Finnegan says

      Thank you, kind sir! Still trying to move from the level of poetaster up to poet. I will do my best to come up with more, although it may be a few days. Can’t imagine how you get so much done … coffee? Cigarettes?

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    So good to read these, Mr Finnegan. Please, if you can, keep them coming!

    (The one line that sticks in my craw is ‘To be struck by malicious Fate.’ If Fate is malicious, then I think the description of her ill-willed strike should be in active voice. Maybe ‘To descend from malicious Fate’, or ‘To break through from the hand of Fate’, or ‘At last from the hand of Fate’, or even ‘To fall from the sledge of Fate’. But if you shouldn’t let the haters get you down, still less should you let unsolicited pontification from a ‘liker’, on a minor point, have that effect.)

    I wondered how this poem would ‘read’ if it were formatted as prose. Result: It survives the operation, and reads very naturally.

    One never knows when disaster will strike, and acting Fire Chief James Murphy, unable to master his nerves, often sighed in grief at the ticking clock. Every moment … Now? So when Chief Collins went to the convention in San Francisco, Murphy sat and waited for a blow to be struck by malicious Fate. Waiting, but hardly ready— Fear was becoming one long, steady drag off an opium pipe. Great men find their destiny in a split second; Murphy quailed and quit.

    Now, how about a short story written entirely out of such paragraphs — i.e., written (loosely, not too sing-song) to the pattern of a sonnet (or some other verse form), but reformatted as prose? Surely someone, somewhere has tried it. Perhaps someone, somewhere, might try it again?

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Great point, Angelico. A tough fix, because Fate is the end of the line, as well as the sentence. Which I rather like because Fate is often considered a kind of ending (mistakenly, one might well argue). It’s also difficult to get around the passivity inherent in “from”.

    Maybe: “Murphy sat, waiting for the woe / that comes with waiting on Fate.”? I like the idea of passivity itself becoming the means by which he un/willingly fulfills his Fate.

    Thanks for the paragraph as well. I went to a Jesse Walter reading last week, and spoke to him afterwards about his novel Financial Lives of the Poets. Apparently he often begins by making notes in whatever verse form he can muster on the spot. Stirring the creative juices and whatnot. Joseph Brodsky was quite emphatic about poetry being a higher form than prose, and I believe him. So almost anything prose can take from poetry will improve it. What I mean is: that’s a great idea.

    As for a short story … I’ve read one guy who’s actually turning a classic novel into sonnets … crazy, crazy stuff!

    Gratias maximas tibi!

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      I like the idea of passivity itself becoming the means by which he un/willingly fulfills his Fate.

      Agreed! “Murphy sat, waiting for the woe / that comes with waiting on Fate” is pretty good, but the current line isn’t bad, either. Probably better to forge ahead than to fine-tune for now, unless the Muse insists otherwise.

      Thank you very much for sharing the thoughts of Walter and Brodsky. I wonder if Walter keeps those notes!

      I’ve read one guy who’s actually turning a classic novel into sonnets … crazy, crazy stuff!

      Seriously! Can’t wait to read his take on Father Zosima’s deathbed flashback.

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