string figures and poetry

two sides of murphy

string figures
making string figures is a ubiquitous human activity whose beginning is lost in the pre-history of man. no one knows when it began, but the use of yarn, cord, sinew and threads is well established early in man’s activities. i came to string figures as a child learning from my grandmother a few very simple figures. it wasn’t until i was a math teacher in a public high school looking for ways to interest recalcitrant math students in learning complex iterative behavior that i “discovered” string figures for real. images of my students and me can be accessed below. there are also videos to help you learn how to make many new figures.

The other activity which has aroused my life-long interest is that of writing poetry. i have been doing so since i was a young undergraduate. i was never that interested in publishing my work, although a few of my friends have done so at odd moments in my life. i was more interested in the pursuit of perfect statement, an unattainable goal. in my later life i have been drawn to making murphy renditions of other poets by “translating” them into english. it is my way of becoming as close to them as i possibly can. the first i tried was rumi, and then i moved on to chinese poets, especially du fu and li tai bo. they are to be found with the other links in the menu to the right.

once when i was young i ran in the rain
down to the river, slipping, sliding down
each drop splashed into me, into the ground
free running slice in a free running grain.

once when i was bouncing grin of the wind,
running fresh as spring’s sweet morning mist
each leap was love, was life, was morning kissed,
lightly kissed in rush round corner’s bend.

i see him now, that dart down long ago
space was morning stride, down to kiss the sea
arching in the shot to find the living core.

once i felt like him, all at once to know
death is love denied, life is love set free,
each and every morning the water seeks the shore.

murphy after a hurricane in calm sunshine ripple

murphy’s Rumi: A Rubaiyat


rumihere are two sorts of zen adept. the first is someone who sits zazen for thirty years or so and finally achieves satori. the other is the zen fool who breaks out in laughter as a young person and never looks back. satori breaks out all over. murphy came to rumi in his late middle age self and was taken back to his wild youth. the most sacred of all american indian medicines is that of the holy clown. this then is a rubaiyat of the runaway murphy meeting the remnants of rumi in the 21st century.

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