My unpublished archives are really works in progess so I will be writing, revising, and adding to the poems posted here.  There was a time when I was loathe to show anyone a poem before I was completely satisfied with it, but age has taught me that no words are written in a social vacuum.  I now look forward to sharing this process with you.  




There was a sign on the outskirts of the city I lived in when I was a kid.  It said strangers

are just friends you haven't met and for me, maybe eight, nine years old it was a little

glimpse of infinity.  Sort of like the guy on the Quaker Oats box holding a smaller guy on

the Quaker Oats box and on and on.


I've had to think hard about a lot of things the last few years and one of those things has

been about the nature of friendship; both having friends and being one.  I felt those

thoughts were worthy of a poem and I am pleased to dedicate this poem to my friends.  To

those I have already met, I hold you in my heart more than you know and to those I have

not yet met; I am eager to meet you.


Also, I have had the great fortune of growing up in a large family and yes we are blood kin but I believe we are also friends.  This poem is written to all of you.


My Friends:


I study waves now.  In the gray dawn.

During the blinding heat of the afternoon.

In the cool of the evening I study the waves.

They are all different.  Each and every wave

is different and not like any other.  Not once.

In all the oceans and through all time not one

wave has been like another.  Like snowflakes.

Like people.  At the far horizon the sea cuts

the sky.  A new wave rolls in hissing at the

shore like a cat.  I study each one, separately

and with care.  I have never seen them

before.  Not once.

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I have studied many things.  I am

a student.  I hope to always be one.

I have studied but not in order: lust,

madness, generations, chaos, poems,

dirty books, consequences, the lines of my hand,

the great northern plains, time travel.  I study

long and hard all my fucking life and what

does it get me?  A life I would not trade

for any other.   I study despair.  It is part

of my job.  I study joy and exultation.

I would there be more of the latter but I

understand.  I studied carefully and with

a kind of miraculous attention the history

of a landscape.  Me, a hipster duffus, rapt

at the sight of the Sweet Grass Hills,

the Hand Hills, Cypress Hills, the Bears Paw

Mountains and best and saddest of all, Paha

Sapa, the Black Hills where an effigy of four

Indian killing presidents is carved into

sacred stone.  Clearly I must return to the

plains where these mountains rise as

randomly as chance but for now, each

moment, I study strange bird song, new music.

I try not to worry about scorpions and

hurricanes.  I speak a kind of pidgin that

seems to serve.  I believe it to be the language

of good will.


 It is full dawn now.  The day is

already warm and soon, hot.  The

village has been awake for hours, since

gray dawn and in the dawn a cacophony

of rooster call and response and bird song.

The air is filled with the songs of strange

beautiful birds.  The house where I live is on

a canal and at the back is a lane connecting

the barrios to the village centre.  In the

dawn the people walk or ride bikes to the shops

and cafes where they work.  Handsome people. Graceful.  Just now three boys are chasing 

a chicken down the road.  They run like 

they could run all day.  The fishermen have

put their boats in the water and are off 

for their morning's work.  I can live here. 

I am living here.  I am alive another day 

on earth.

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Or this paradise.  I have just turned eighteen

and had recently quit high school to begin

my education.  I had heard about a bookstore

downtown and I set out on one of those journeys

that last a lifetime.  I went into the store and the

waves crashing on the beach these years later

remind me I am fortunate that I had for so many 

years a place on earth.  I called him, my friend 

and mentor of more than twenty five years, on the

phone last evening, the connection not clear 

across thousands of miles but clear as a bell 

was the sound of friendship, as always.  I 

walked into his bookstore and recognized it,

I knew it would be my home for the next

twenty five years and so it has been. 


I am in another place now.  I am in a place

three thousand miles from the place of my

heart.  I must be daft to love the great plains

as much as I do, probably as cold as a social

worker's smile by now I imagine.  In the early

dawn light I watched brilliantly coloured dragon

flies mating and strangely it has made me long for

the place of my heart.  A paradise found made

me long for a paradise lost.  A small bookshop

on the high plains and my friend, George.


A mutual friend of ours, another 

story, knew somehow the bookstore was 

going to be my anchor in the world and

that George would be the captain of our 

leaky craft and that all the books in the 

shop would be my companions forever and that

by staying in one place I could travel around

the world and through all time.  Without even speaking to me about it our mutual friend 

spoke to George suggesting I would be good

for the store; that my passion for reading 

could be infectious. A few days later, 

unsuspectingly I stopped by the store and George asked if I would like to work there.  

I grabbed a broom and started sweeping.  I am

in another place now, three thousand miles 

from home, far from the place of my heart.  I am living in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico and I am nowhere at home.  But I was.  For many years

my home was a small bookshop in a small city

on the plains and later we moved the shop 

to a small town at the edge of the plains

where the mountains guarded our our backs 

like gunfighters.  The places of my heart. 

A small city on the northern plains

and a bookshop in a small prairie

town.  I am in paradise now, miles 

from home.  Nowhere at home.


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Murdoch in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico

I first bought a book from George 

in 1971 (during that first visit, during those

exciting times) and through the next few years

I studied books and wrote poems

and made awkward young man love to the

beautiful girlfriends I never felt I deserved

but I was honoured by their presence in

my life and tried to honour their own.

Five years went by and I didn't notice

I was giving myself a beautiful education

and, sadly, I didn't notice I was a beautiful

man with a tender heart - I just ran

and ran through my life, joyous and fearful.

There is a time on the canal where I am living

when everything seems to come alive.  An

iguana larger than a dog suns itself

on the seawall, indigo throat 

throbbing.  Small black crows come

in to raid the chaff I have laid out

for the chicken.  Small fish strike the 

surface of the water and are in turn 

struck by gulls and by pelicans as

graceful in the air as they are

gangly on the ground.  Perfectly beautiful

tiny yellow and black birds dart 

to the papaya tree in the yard, drink

deeply from the fruit with a wary 

eye on my cat.  Man o' war birds the shape

of pterodactyls circle sedately above

us like gods.  Just now I used the corner 

of my notebook to kill a scorpion crawling

toward me.  Some days, maybe most days

I feel like that fucking scorpion has 

always been coming toward me.  There 

is always some kind of scorpion crawling

toward us, no matter what our paradise.

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Charles.  You have to remember that I 

was a young hick, a rube, didn't know

Charles Dickens from Monica Dickens.  But

I was a guesting young man walking across 

town on Sunday afternoons to watch a 

Shakespeare on film series, each Tuesday 

walking downtown to see a play 

filmed by the American Film Institute.

Every day browsing in the second hand

bookstores and every day learning, learning.

In Charles' apartment there was a 

universe - film, photography, dance, history,

poetry - for a young man trying to 

reach out and not be a hillbilly anymore

it was like entering a shrine - there 

in the corner was James Joyce's walking 

stick, on the wall a framed letter from Carl

Sandburg thanking Charles for the 

inspiration for a poem, recordings of

plains Indian chants and songs made 

while he was working with Frances 

Densmore and on and on.  A paradise.

It was Charles who spoke to George and

said Murdoch should work in your shop.

It was Charles who taught me how 

to type a manuscript, cook elaborate 

dinners.  It was Charles who taught 

me to trust my own education, my love

of knowledge.  It was Charles who got 

me my first job teaching at the

art college.  Before I left for my

interview I said Charles I can't do 

this, for chrissakes, I don't even 

have a high school diploma.  Charles

said you can do it because you have

something to teach.  He later went

away to another city and I never 

saw him again but I never forgot,

never will.

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The process of my education remains

to this day, in the argot of those earlier 

times, a gas.  Twenty years ago 

I was living in Toronto, living on pogie

and going every day to the Toronto Research

Library or the Royal Ontario Museum,

studying, studying like a novice monk.

Back to back I read the Iliad 

and the Odyssey and often I walked

the streets in the rosy fingered dawn.  The

learning.  My private eccentric education 

from my childhood to this day has been

exultant, radical, joyous.

I guess it is time to tell

you more about George because

he has been and remains the source

of my education; he is my mentor, my friend,

my brother.  What can I say.  He is

intelligent, humanistic, stubborn, 

funny, has terrible table manners, and

no one in the world has had a greater

influence on my life.  My friend, my

brother: George.  He got married a few

years ago.  It didn't work out, more on this

later and I was driving to the wedding

with my Brigitte, more on this later

and I started telling George stories and was

laughing so hard I had to pull off 

the highway.  I remember the clouds that

night were dark and angry.  Maybe we

both should have known better.  It was like there

was a scorpion crawling toward us.

Both George and I were rubes in our

early days, rubes born among rubes unto 

a thousand generations and only marginally

lucky enough and smart enough to make a break

from our upbringing into a world more

of our choosing.  Yes, rubes we 

were born and rubes we shall be on the 

day of our dying but we each of us, unknown 

to the other, chose books and ideas and 

beauty and blah blah 

blah and it also happened that we were

nice guys trying to swing a deal with

an implacable world.  George's 

deal was he would make a bookshop, a 

place of beauty, knowledge, joy.  My deal 

was more ephemeral - I would make poems 

and we each of us and together have given 

up to the world oru gifts as best we could.

You see, I have learned and probably too late

that life is not an abstraction.  

Life is not an idea, it is not a poem.

It is money and taxes and visits to 

the doctor and getting enough exercise

and not smoking a zillion cigarettes

and not drinking all the vodka in 

the world.  Life is practical.  Life is

not waking up one day and 

deciding to make poems so beautiful 

that angels would tremble, poems so beautiful

that all the babies in the world would

sleep happily in their mothers' arms, poems 

so beautiful that I would not have to

live life in the real world. I believed

it so much that for twenty five years,

a third of our allotment I lived in a 

world of my own choosing, a beautiful

funy chaotic world and I thought it real.

Now, here I am, in this paradise, this 

tiny village on the southwest coast of

Mexico.  I am forty four years old, crinkly

faced from a zillion smokes, red faced

from all the vodka in the world and

I relaize that no poem in the world 

can save me.  George always knew that

life was paper work and taxes and

all of that and I thought it was poetry

and dancing.  I danced through 

life for twenty five years and 

then the real world, the one that 

everyone else knows, came home to

me.  I woke up, three thousand miles 

from the place of my heart and felt

I was nowhere at home.  I love my poems 

but they are not the world. George  

knew this but I did not.  I thought 

poems would build safe houses, end 

wars, feed babies.  I thought poems 

would stop my pain.  I was wrong.  

I have been terribly wrong and now 

red faced and wrinkled and drunken 

I must confront the world as it is, 

not as I imagined.  But I must tell 

you, I would not change a thing if I could 

live it all again.  In spite of many things

I believe I am a fortunate son.  I am alive

another day on earth.

Think of the times.  The setting sun 

last night backlit the clouds and for a

brief moment you could see the curve of

the earth reflected under the roiling pink dome

of the sky.  In my memory that is how

those times seems to me.  A brief shining

moment when everything seemed possible and 

we could dare to dream and so I did.  

I dreamed a quarter century of magic 

and dance and it all came ture.  I must 

tell you I would not change a thing.  

Except perhaps, the world. 


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It is full dawn now and time

for me to begin my work.  I will

patrol the village greeting people I have

come to know and being greeted.  I will

learn new words, in many languages.  I will

study the movement of palm trees and bird

flight.  There are many waves to study, each

a story and by each I am reminded.  Each

wave reminds me I am alive this day.  We

are each of us like each wave.  A story.  I am

in a paradise now and each day reminds me

of all the paradises I have had and all I have

lost.  Paradises found, lost and remembered.

I remember this.  Part of me will always be

the child I was and I know some people and

maybe most have lost the beautiful child

they were and maybe they call it maturity, the not remembering but I think it would be too sad to not be and to not remember the child 

I was.  Yes, I learn by studying but mostly 

I learn by remembering.  Like this.  The other

day I watched a man in the central plaza

sweep up with an ancient broom crimson

flowers on the sidewalk.  Later it rained and

more blossoms fell.  When the rain stopped the

man came and swept again.  A quietly beautiful moment in paradise 

I will never forget.

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All of our stories take a lifetime 

to be told.  I have always wanted 

to tell my story so I learned to write 

poems, brief urgent stories told beautifully.

All of our stories take a lifetime to

be told.  Our actions, beliefs,

our fictions.  I am still alive to live

my story and to tell it.   And so it grows

beyond telling.  To this journey, to this paradise. Beyond telling, yes clearly, but my attempt here and always is to tell that 

which cannot be told and so I learned 

the language of poems.  These brief

urgent stories of our lives; the stories

we can scarcely tell, but must.

From the moment I wrote my first

poem in 1971 my life path was clear.

I would make poems and he stuff of poems 

is all our stories so I have learned as

much as I could and I have lived as 

much as I could and I have tried to

tell the storeis we have beyond telling.

You are my friends, those of you who 

are reading this and I love you and

miss you; there in paradise far 

from you.  But I must tell you and

you must know that the journey I 

began years ago was difficult and

more so than I knew.  I have grown

tired too soon, old too young and

so I must tell you my story, my

brief urgent story - a poem, while I can.

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This paradise.  I am twenty years

old working as a groundsman at an

upscale condo place.  I am raking leaves

beneath a ground floor balcony and

a guy whose appearance you could only

call distinguished came out and asked

what was the paperback I had in my 

back pocket.  Without speaking I held

up a tattered copy of Leaves of Grass

and without speaking he gestured me

over the balcony and I entered his 

library which I guessed contained ten

thousand books.  He pointed at one 

of the shelves and here was Whitman 

studies, maybe a hundred and fifty volumes

like I could not imagine and so began

another friendship.  Another

journey.  Another paradise.

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Murdoch, aged 25

I was a hurt young man.  I duked

it out of my childhood as best I 

could and I dragged a grief 

around with me I didn't even

know I had.  But you must remember that

(and you other old vets of that botched

revolution do I am sure) our personal

stories blended into the political one,

even the historical one.  For me those years

say from 1968 through to about '73

were like watching the kids surfing

in the bay here - just catch the

wave and ride it.  Root

hog or die.  I was a hurt young man

and tender hearted but the times swept

us up, each of us and flung

us together randomly, often beautifully.

All of it lived to a music, beautiful

to this day.  We lived and we lived.

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George Parry at his Bookstore in Cochrane, Alberta

George will survive.  He is ultimately as 

sturdy as the castles in the Wales of his 

ancestors.  He will continue to sell books and

ideas and his particular brand of independence

that has always bordered on insurrection and

rebellion.  I took to his teaching, his rebellious

knowledge, like I was born to it and I see

in hindshight I was.  George, more pragmatic

than I am will survive.  Me, I'm not so sure.

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Murdoch, circa 1995

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People wiser than I am have told me 

if I want to change the world it 

meant I really want to change myself.  

Also that if I pine for the great

times of a long ago world I am 

denying the world as it is, as it must 

be.  Si, claro.  But I know what I 

know and I say what I say.  If 

those times permitted a young rube 

to dream and if later, many years 

later the dream became bitter so be it.  

We cannot tell all our stories, they

are too much, too long, too complex.

But por favor, permit me to try to 

tell you something of those twenty-five years.

Paradise lost, found and remembered.

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I was seventeen when I wrote my first poem.

Big deal.  Who the fuck cares.  The poems

since then have not entered much into 

the public consciousness, they have not

changed the world.  But they changed 

mine.  I entered the world of poems and language and history rather like the gringos here 

in this paradise enter the ocean.  Nervous, 

tentative.  Think of me, riding

a tide of the Zeitgeist, awash n the 

waves of the world and trying to get

it down, make it beautiful.  Think of it

for a moment.  I often do.  The young

man I was reaching for a pen and 

a notebook sayng here is how I 

enter the world, my citizenship in

this world, my small gift will

be poems.  If one is gong to make 

mistakes and we all do, I think we should

err on the side of the angels.

It seems to me, these years later that

deciding to make poems was an

attempt to heal pain.  You see I came

of age during the last gasp of the sixties,

formed n that crucible but the like so 

many of us seemingly abandoned. The

age changed and many of us, certainly

me, and I suspect, George, felt we could

not.  We had been defined and liberated

by an historical moment and subsequent

changes felt lke betrayal so we hung

to a moment, a brief speck of time

and tried to make it real, make

it permanent, make it a gift to

the world.  It was paradise and many

of us could not bear to see it lost.

I know that sixties survivors are mostly

unbearable - Woodstock blah blah blah, we ended the war in Vietnam yaddi yadd 

yaddi.  Our taste in literature sucked, visual art worse, film worst of all.  But we made great music and we danced in a brief 

shining moment around the world and if

one was fortunate, it was a tiny revolution that could last many years.  Fuck you

if you were there and quit.  Fuck you.

And fuck you if you weren't there

and feel qualified to sneer.  You are

not.  We made the mistakes we made

and individually we made the same 

mistakes everyone makes, si claro.  

But if those times unleashed a few

hundred thousand dreamers into the 

world... fuck you.

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So George made a bookstore, a hip little

corner of the city where ideas grew like

mushrooms in the dark and remember we were

way off at the edge of the world and

the music came a little late and the ideas 

came a little late but George my man, stubborn

little prck that he is made his store a centre

for whaatever it was you needed to know.

And he hired my pink ass for many of those

years and between us we made a little

revolution.  Me and my poems that nobody 

reads and George in his bookstore out 

on the edge of the owrld, we made a 

tiny little revolution and fuck  you.

George stories.  Pinche Cabrone.  One time

a beautiful woman came up the stairs

and went off into the bowels of

the store which was many small rooms in an

old house.  George was standing beside

me when she came up to the cash register

carrying several copies of a book of my 

poems.  George stomped back down 

the stairs and wouldn't speak 

to me for days.  Especially after I had had

sex with her in the bookstore, in George's 

house, on hs couch, in his bed.  George

stories.  You must remember when I tell his

stories, I tell my own.

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Almost everything conspires when one

is born to the working class to beat

the genius out of us.  The legal system,

the media, the chicken shit education we

receive, our bad teeth, bad accents, bad 

diets.  Certainly if you're not very bright 

it is bad enough:  We are the most quick to be

arrested, convicted, to do time, to be 

drafted.  It seems lke this beautiful world

of ours has always been having a party

but only those to the manor born 

get invited.  This might not be the greatest

poem in the world so you wll just have

to take what I am going to tell you 

on faith.  I believe that George and

I are possessed by genius.

I believe his small chaotic bookstore

on the northern plains and my tender

hearted poems are a gift to the world

not commensurate to that which 

we have received.  So fuck you.

We have both raised ourselves beyond

our expectations and I think beyond our

times.  Yes we are sixties anachronisms

and yes in the business of life, the doing

of it, we don't cut it.  And perhaps life is

the getting done of it and not the

dreaming of it, I don't know and I suspect

none of us do.  But if the dreaming of 

life as it should be is the measure of 

lives lived, then George and I have

lived incredibly well.  We dreamed

good dreams and in our way made them

as real as we could.  George more practical

than I will survive.  Me, I'm not so sure.

Almost everything conspires when one

is born to the working class to beat

the genius out of us.  The legal system,

the media, the chicken shit education we

receive, our bad teeth, bad accents, bad 

diets.  Certainly if you're not very bright 

it is bad enough:  We are the most quick to be

arrested, convicted, to do time, to be 

drafted.  It seems lke this beautiful world

of ours has always been having a party

but only those to the manor born 

get invited.  This might not be the greatest

poem in the world so you wll just have

to take what I am going to tell you 

on faith.  I believe that George and

I are possessed by genius.

I believe his small chaotic bookstore

on the northern plains and my tender

hearted poems are a gift to the world

not commensurate to that which 

we have received.  So fuck you.

We have both raised ourselves beyond

our expectations and I think beyond our

times.  Yes we are sixties anachronisms

and yes in the business of life, the doing

of it, we don't cut it.  And perhaps life is

the getting done of it and not the

dreaming of it, I don't know and I suspect

none of us do.  But if the dreaming of 

life as it should be is the measure of 

lives lived, then George and I have

lived incredibly well.  We dreamed

good dreams and in our way made them

as real as we could.  George more practical

than I will survive.  Me, I'm not so sure.

For a while three of us campaneros 

lived in a small funky cottage beside the

booksore.  Our dear friend Rajab, a Bengazzi

street urchin who also raised himself beyond any

expectation, George and myself.  It was the

early seventies, we were all single, no one

knew about aids, we all worked hard in 

the bookstore all day and played hard all

night.  George was in love or lust 

or whatevere with a beautiful real estate

agent who was married to a guy bigger

than our house.  She used to come by the 

storey, buy a book, flirt with George, drive

me and Raj crazy.  One evening I closed

up the store, maybe about seven in the

evening and went to the cottage.  Raj

was watching some news.  George for some

reason was lyng on the couch and looking

seriously fucked up.  Shirt unbuttoned, barefoot

and kind of thrashing around like he

was listening to strange music no one

else could hear.  Listen, I'm the last person on

earth to be judgmental about someone

else's party plans, I just assumed 

George had dived inot the scotch

a tad early so I watched the news

with Raj and didn't pay much attention

to our thrashing George other than 

to notice that occasionally he 

would offer up a lucid comment about

the news we were watching or to ask

a question about how the day had gone.  Strange.

Usually when one is that far gone into 

the abyss of liquor there is no returning

for brief sound bytes of reality.  But 

you never knew with George.  Still don't.

But over the ocurse of the evening, a story 

emerged from our barefoot friend, rolling

around on the couch that finally had

Raj and I laughing like to piss ourselves

and George is getting seriously more 

angry because he is big time in a ditch

he ahd dug himself but Raj and I were not

sympathetic to anyone else's ditch and 

as it comae out that George had finally 

done the beautiful deed with the realtor

we cheered but George s sayng no you

don't understand a few days earlier I was

standing in line at a cafeteria and 

the woman n front of me says lets 

get out of here and by now Raj and

I are whooping with laughter and George

is getting more angry trying to make

us understand that the woman from

the cafeteria he had the nooner

with phoned him the day after 

he had closed the deal with the

realtor to tell him he had the 

clap and then an hour later his 

other frolic of the week phoned

to say that she and her husband

who suspected strongly that George had

been knowing his wife biblically were 

to come by the next mornng to have

George convince this guy as big

as a house that he had not had

the conjugal visit.  By this time Rajab

and I are crying we are laughing

so hard and George is ready to pitch

us into a river and Raj and I come

up with a plan we think is foolproof.