Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bad news for Tim

About a month ago, Tim Murphy, de facto poet laureate of North Dakota if not of the entire west, sent me this poem teasing me for not going hunting with him this year.
Before I reply or even make a wisecrack, I got the following:

"Dear Hunting Buddies, I have Stage IV cancer in my hip, spine, and esophagus
We have a plan. The femur is a crisis, a twig ready to snap. Next week an orthopedic oncologist will insert a metal rod through the marrow, knee to hip, perhaps even do a hip replacement.
Radiation, which requires five day bursts, will start soon in Fargo. My medical institutions here and there are used to collaborating smoothly.

"Chemo: Mayo wants me to participate in an experimental trial combining chemotherapy and the new immunotherapy. Certainly makes sense, kill the bad guys and encourage the good. This will require a trip every two weeks for two months. Then they will pet scan me and see if it's working. I'm going to do it. We'll know in three months whether they can extend my life beyond this year.

"Cancer in three places, very malignant; my friend, the situation couldn't be more dire. But as my oncologist said, "We can't cure this, but we can control it." A brilliant young man, he's made it from Mumbai to the Mayo, and that is the first ray of hope.

"I have two attachments for you fellows, the huge hunting section of Hiking All Night, and the new cancer log. I can't believe I've written 33 pages in twenty days. You'll see my morale leaves nothing to be desired.


Tim is an almost unbelievably tough man. Raised in Hibbing, MN (with Bob Dylan as a babysitter!); a Yale scholar and a protege of Robert Penn Warren, a farmer, businessman and classic poet. He's been rich and he's been poor. He chose to live as a gay man in a tough rural northern setting, not an easy decision. He was widowed from his partner Alan Sullivan, a great translator of Beowulf among other things, by cancer. He's a practicing Catholic, a drinker and smoker; above all, the most serious pheasant hunter I have ever known. He has owned five great dogs and written the best poems on hunting dogs I've ever seen. Keep him in your hearts and prayers and read Hunter's Log and the poems he has coming out. Here is a YouTube interview with him a few years ago when that book came out.

"Our dogs teach us how to die."


Retrieverman said...

You introduced me to Tim's poetry several years ago on this blog. I really enjoy his work, and I hate to hear this news.

Anonymous said...

We need more poets on the plains...I'll be praying for Tim.
T. Condon eastern Montana

Pete said...

Very moving. I wish him well.