26 June, 2005
In 1979, Thomas Hornsby Ferril was appointed Colorado's Poet Laureate. He died nine years later.
Ferril was born in 1896 and lived in Denver his whole life, writing down memories of the American West filtered through his quick mind and creative spirit. His work never hammers away on politics, it talks of being human and surviving in this harsh and lovely land.
Today, in the midst of wars and rumors of wars, its refreshing to share work untainted by rabble and fists pounding out strident cause. Not that I don't have strong political and spiritual beliefs, I do. And yes, I will reflect on the current affairs of this broken ol' world with passion and, I hope, clarity. However, as an introduction, it seems right and proper to begin with one of my favorite poems from one of my favorite writers.
Ferril's work is best when read aloud, shared with a beloved, and that beloved might just be yourself. Pour a drink, sit back and enjoy.....
You didn't know you came to make a city,
Nobldy knows when a city's going to happen.
You worked your whipsaw shacks up Cherry Creek,
Scurry of sliver mnnows twitching the sand-burs,
You couldn't tell the soda crust from quicksand,
One boot scuffin solikd alkali,
The other hovering a step-off plunge.
Vesper still as a rustle of thistle-birds
The antelope fell back,
Magpies interlacing cottonwoods,
Zig-zag echoings of black-is-white
And the night could hear
Ox-hide hinges flicking a candle gutter
Of argosies forsworn and rainless seed,
Nicks in the blade of the axe
The rotting sluices
Panning out prayers no higher than the blow-flies.
Whiskey dripped on quit-claims torn from Bibles
The white plum blossoms brought the bloody flux,
And there were graves and pimps and nuns and lawyers
And open squaws and opim and lungers.
You didn't know you came to make a city:
You danced by latern light and a calico moon,
You whisper-kissed the long forever words,
You planted lilacs, rhubarb, sweet alyssum;
You chanted Bethlehem by skift of snow,
You told of Cinderella to the small ones
Going to sleep thier first long all-night rain,
The willow leaves so lovely in the morning.
You braided daisies into golden hair,
You picked wild choke-cheeries,
You knew of ghosts.
You were courteous to the children of cannibals,
You hatched a loco mare in her traces,
You picked the bishop's bedbugs from the mattress,
You were patient with the wrinkled cream the thunder soured,
Patient with maggots, patient with all
The knotted idiosyncracies of hangmen.
You sang together and you read outloud,
Sparrows and churches came,
There was elegant dust
In the socket of the buggy whip on Sunday.