Timothy Murphy



I. Going on Ten

Six inches of fluffy snow,
it is seven degrees below,
the wind from the West at seven—
Labrador heaven.

On either side of the sun
the optical show has begun
with sundogs to left and right
dazzling my sight.

Out of the waist-high grass
where Feeney and gunner pass
the pheasant cocks explode,
and I reload.

How long can Feeney keep up
this quartering with no pup
to back him in the field?
When will he yield?

II. Stud Fee

Offered six hundred bucks
or first pick of a pup
which of them shall I choose?
Which of the litter sucks
hardest when puppies sup?
Who can untie my shoes?

III. Getting Acquainted

Tumbling him on his back
you throttle him by the throat.
Chubby as he is black,
dark-hearted as his coat,

he longs to chew on your ear,
sneak kibble from your bowl
and sniff your rear, old dear.
Aren’t puppies made to roll?

Too soon he will outsmart
and lead you through the slough.
But in his hunter’s heart
he will never rival you.

Breakfast at Brennan’s

After a Cajun Mass at the Cathedral
I dream I’m buying brunch on Sunday morning,
my guests Louisiana’s finest poets:
Julie Kane, Gail White and Jenny Reeser.

We’re pigging out at Brennan’s in New Orleans:
first turtle soup, then seafood jambalaya,
oysters diced and tossed in a Caesar salad,
fine Chardonnay (we’re into our third bottle).

I step outside with cognac in a snifter
to take a break and fire up a Havana.
Non-smokers all, my esteemed colleagues order
coffee and Brennan’s famed bananas Foster.

I’d asked a sweet dream of the Blessed Virgin;
hendecasyllables were what she sent me
which, waking, word for word I have recorded.
It’s a hint, girls. When can I buy you breakfast?


Timothy Iver Murphy of Fargo, North Dakota, passed away in his home on Saturday, June 30, 2018, at the age of sixty-seven. He was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, on January 10, 1951. Raised in Moorhead, Minnesota, he was active in high school speech and debate and graduated from Moorhead High School in 1968 as president of his senior class. Tim was an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow. He worked summers at Camp Wilderness near Park Rapids, Minnesota, as a scout craft aide and a commissioner. He attended Yale University, pursuing his interest in poetry and undertaking a tutorial with Robert Penn Warren. He was named Scholar of the House in Poetry and graduated from Yale with a BA in 1972. Tim joined his father in the life insurance, pension, and estate-planning business V.R. Murphy and Sons, Inc., winning numerous national sales awards. His entrepreneurial interests led to his raising equity capital for partnerships in a number of local companies: Timco Farms, Bell Farms, Orchard Glen Development, DakTech, and Bytespeed LLC. Tim loved hiking, sailing, farming, and hunting with his black Labs. All were inspiration for his poetry, which was his great passion in life. A fascinating and complicated man, he wrote deceptively simple poetry exploring universal themes: faith, family, spirituality, death, farming, friendship. His work is rooted in the Red River of the North, North Dakota, and the Great Plains. His poetry is published in prominent journals, including Poetry, Quadrant, Hudson Review, New Criterion, Chronicles, Alabama Literary Review, and Gray’s Sporting Journal. His books include The Deed of Gift (Story Line Press 1998), Set the Ploughshare Deep (Ohio University Press 2002), Mortal Stakes/Faint Thunder (Dakota Institute Press 2011), Hunter’s Log (Dakota Institute Press 2011), and Devotions (North Dakota State University Press 2017). He collaborated with his long-time partner Alan Sullivan on a translation of Beowulf (Longman 2004).
—Jennifer Reeser