Sept. 3, 2022

Our High School Mag: Donna Murphy Gets Lit

Our High School Mag:  Donna Murphy Gets Lit

Broadway? Movies? TV? That's nuthin'. Donna Murphy first found fame on the high school literary mag staff with Michael and Sally. Listen as they read poems by Donna and others 50 years later -- and get a big surprise.

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EPISODE 5 NOTES:  History's Best High School Literary Magazine, starring Donna Murphy as herself

I'm telling you, I was ready to throw out the five issues of our high school literary magazine that I saved since the mid-1970s.

But then... Donna Murphy entered the picture.  Our high school pal has done kinda well as an actress on Broadway and beyond.  In case you need a reminder of her many feats, you can watch her sing, dance and act like somebody we've never met on my list of her most memorable roles.  Or just freakin' read Wikipedia.

Donna joined us on I Couldn't Throw It Out to read poems and stories from old issues of our literary magazine Mindscape.  And... I swear this is true.  Here's what we found:   Beauty.  Truth.  Profundity.

Is it actually possible that our 1970s classmates at Masconomet Regional High School, in the exurbs of Boston Massachusetts, had such talent and insight?  Or did Donna just use her magic to put us under some kind of spell?

Ultimately, even our impartial bystander Cindy Ruskin -- who listened in to make sure we were honest in our judgment -- agreed that these magazines should never be tossed.  So, yet another failure. Nothing thrown out.  Whew.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Donna Murphy.

I know I can't be the only one who held onto my high school magazines. If you have memories or poems to share from your own brilliant publication, please share it here.

To inspire you to dig out those ancient words, here are some images of what we revisited in this episode.

To celebrate one of Donna's recent landmark birthdays, Cindy Ruskin illustrated a poem that Donna wrote in 9th grade in a style that was intentionally a little too literal...

Donna Murphy's high school poem illustrated by Cindy Ruskin

Now here's a collector's item.  The very first issue of Mindscape from fall of 1973:

And one of the beautiful contributions from high school junior Brenda Moore...

Paula Schmitt, another talented high school artist, did this drawing of a Masconomet student in his gym clothes...

And the winner of the Golden Mindscape Award...

A very rebellious Sally Welsh didn't show up for the Mindscape yearbook photo -- and neither did Donna Murphy.  I'm in the back row, fifth from left, in a crew-neck sweater that stayed in my parents closet until we cleaned it out a few years ago; the hair on my head was more difficult to retain.  Our truly inspiring advisor Paul Janeczko (far left) later became a renowned poet and poetry anthologist.  

Just in case there's any doubt about who actually was on the Mindscape staff, here's the proof...



I Couldn't Throw It Out, Podcast Episode 5

Our High School Magazine:  Donna Murphy Gets Lit

 I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out

MICHAEL SMALL:  Hello Sally Libby

SALLY LIBBY:  Hello Michael Small

MICHAEL:  I hope you're ready for something a little different in this episode of our podcast – which we like to call I Couldn't Throw It Out.

This time we're going back, way way back – to the mid '70s.  I have some objects that I've saved since high school, and they are  packed with memories.

SALLY:  Are they misty and watercolored?

MICHAEL:  Possibly.

SALLY: Then let's throw them out.  Right away.

MICHAEL:  Uh uh.   That's not the deal. Before we toss anything, we've gotta take a closer look.  These objects were really important to me when I saved them.  So the question is, could they still have some value?

SALLY:  Highly unlikely.

MICHAEL:  Well, I've got good news.  Today, we're lucky enough to have some very special help with figuring it out.  We have two party crashers.  How do you feel about that?

SALLY:  Exciting.

MICHAEL:   Yeah. You have known one of them for about 50 years.  Let me tell you a little bit about her.   She is a performer who is best known – at least to me – for her show-stopping performance as a ballet dancing stripper in the musical Gypsy, presented by the Pebblestone Players of Topsfield Massachusetts, sometime in the 1970s. Since then, she's gone on to much lesser things  (laughter) – doing her acting thing in places like Broadway… on movie screens, and on television sets.  But we don't care about any of that.  Do you know why? 

SALLY:  None of it.  No!

MICHAEL:  Exactly.  I’ll tell you why.

SALLY:  Let’s get back to the Pebblestone Players.

MICHAEL:    Because we never freakin' recognize her when she's in a role.  When she’s acting, she isn’t the person we know.  And you proved this, Sal.  Remember waaaay back around 1980, we went to see her in a Broadway show called "They're Playing Our Song."

SALLY:  “They’re playing our song!” 

MICHAEL:  Exactly.  And we didn't recognize anyone in that show who seemed like our friend.  And we left without going backstage to say hello.  Remember that?

SALLY:  Awww.  That’s really terrible.

MICHAEL:  I know. So who is our guest Sally?

SALLY:  Our guest today is the inimitable Donna Murphy, class of ‘77 at Masconomet Regional High School.  

MICHAEL:  Hooray!   Donna, welcome!

SALLY:  Welcome, Donna!  

DONNA MURPHY:  Hello!  I’ve been holding back so much laughter while I’ve been hearing this introduction.

SALLY:  This must be one of the biggest days of your life.

DONNA MURPHY:  Along with when I was playing Mazeppa and was also playing one of the farm boys and crashed into one of them while I was making an entrance and got knocked out cold.  And, yeah, got a concussion and a huge black eye.  And we teased my hair over that eye.  Which was a really stupid thing.  Because, like, are you kidding?  What a great character choice.  The stripper with the ”shiner.”  Anyway, I don’t want to get us off track here.  But I’m so happy you brought up one of my favorite roles and certainly one of my best performances ever.  (laughter)

MICHAEL:  I don’t want to get too stuck on that.  Because we have a lot to get to.  But before we say another word about Donna, we have one other  very special guest to introduce.  She has never starred on Broadway, I believe.  She has never lived in Topsfield, where the three of us grew up.  She has graciously agreed to join us because wereally need an impartial witness for what will happen here  today.  It's my pleasure to introduce a major FOD (Friend of Donna) AND the woman who had the questionable judgment to marry me 26 years go – all the way from her own childhood in Durbanville, South Africa, I give you... Cindy Ruskin!

CINDY RUSKIN:  Hello, hello, hello!

SALLY:  Cindy!  Welcome Cindy!


CINDY:  Hi Donna!   Hi Sally!

MICHAEL:  So Donna... I think we need to welcome you to a project that – so far – has been an absolute…  failure.  So welcome.

DONNA MURPHY:  I am honored to be here.

MICHAEL: In this podcast, we are supposed to go through the 24 boxes of stuff that I've saved since I was age 6.  And – with help from Sally and now you and Cindy – I’m supposed to throw it all out.  So today, we have a mission.  I’ve told you both that I reached into a box and pulled out things that should be thrown out.  Donna, would you like to tell us what these objects are?

DONNA MURPHY:  These treasured beautiful sentimental items are issues of our high school literary magazine entitled Mindscape.  And Michael Small was the editor of this magazine.  But I don’t know, how many years Michael?

MICHAEL:  Oh, I only was the editor junior and senior year.

SALLY:  Didn’t you come back after senior year to edit it?  (laughter). Michael never wants to quit anything.

MICHAEL:  Do does anyone know where it got its name, this magazine?

DONNA MURPHY:  No, I don’t know.

MICHAEL:  Okay.  Well, it used to be so foolishly called Kaleidoscope, before we took over an innovated.  And Kaleidoscope, I could not even spell.  In fact… SALLY:  And that’s why it was changed.

MICHAEL:  Actually, I had many strong feelings in high school about many things and one that I felt strongly about was spelling was bad.  Like, if you cared about spelling, you weren’t creative.

DONNA MURPHY:  For all you listeners out there, this is obviously an extremely literary man.  (laughter)

MICHAEL:  So I didn’t know how to spell Kaleidoscope.  And, Donna, if you look through, you’d see that there are many, many misspellings in the magazine, mostly in anything I wrote.   In fact, there’s one that I found where I was talking about the aisle of a train and I spelled it i-s-l-e. Like there was an island in the middle of the train.

DONNA MURPHY:  Oh, I think that’s clever.  It’s creative spelling.

MICHAEL:  Yeah.  But anyway, Kaleidoscope had to be changed.  And we were thinking of names and my brilliant older sister Lyn – who had been featured in Kaleidoscope – gave us the name Mindscape.  So anyway..

DONNA MURPHY:  Thanks Lyn.

SALLY:  Thank you Lyn.

MICHAEL:  Now Donna, how were you involved with this wonderful thing?

DONNA MURPHY:  I think I first became involved my freshman year.  And I was one of those kids who wanted to kinda get a taste of everything.  You know, I was interested in a lot of different things.  And I found out that there was a literary magazine. And you could submit writing to it.  I can’t remember – did we have weekly meetings?

MICHAEL:  We did.  And I think I’m going to remind you that you had a job you did not do particularly well.  Do you know what that was?

DONNA MURPHY:  Oh – probably why I blocked it out, darling.   (laughter). What was my job?

MICHAEL:  So the process was…. Downtown Topsfield did not have a lot of things in it.   Sally or Donna – can either of you name anything you remember from downtown Topsfield Massachusetts?

SALLY:  A bike shop.

MICHAEL:  Okay.  Yes.

DONNA MURPHY:  Fraher’s Apothecary.

SALLY:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  Sue’s Specialty Shop for Square Dancing.  (laughter)

MICHAEL:  It’s true!

SALLY:  But I think it fell apart around 1966.

MICHAEL:  The thing is that there wasn’t a lot there.  But next to the bike shop, there was a printing press.  And there was a really cool guy there whose name was… Hudson.  Bob Hudson.  And he helped us in so many ways. Like, I would go there and he would show me these thick papers. And they had all kinds of artsy names.  Like, this is mustard.  And this one is  vermillion.  Or whatever.  And you would touch the papers and wish you could put your magazine in these papers.  And he showed me that we would get clay-coated white paper that was very very very white.  And then we’d use the Selectrics typewriter with a special ribbon to type everything out.  And then we would cut it out.  And he gave us these cardboard – very rare – we had to be careful with them,  cardboard things with lines on it that the camera couldn’t see.  So we could line everything up on these straight lines.  And we’d paste it on.  And you were a paste-up person Donna Murphy.  And you were not good.  (laughter)

DONNA MURPHY:  That doesn’t surprise me at all.  It was not a well-assigned task.

SALLY:  That’s on your resume, isn’t it, Donna?

DONNA MURPHY:  Not even on the fourth page at the very bottom.

MICHAEL:  And I had to go back and sort of peel off your stuff and jiggle it a little to get it right.  And now, I noticed, I have these five issues here.  Cindy – can you give us some artsy colors for what this cover is?  What color is that?

CINDY:  Orange.

MICHAEL:  That’s very artsy.  We have the orange one with the deer under the trees on the cover – a drawing of deer under the trees.  And then we have this one.  Cindy – what color would you call that?

CINDY:  Aqua.

MICHAEL: Aqua.  With a tree with snow on it.  Then we have this one.  What color Cindy?

CINDY:  Lime green

MICHAEL:  With a beautifully rendered bird on the cover.  On a pussy willow. Then what color is this one Cindy?  You’re the artist.  Describe what this is.

CINDY:  It looks like an illuminated manuscript.

MICHAEL:  Okay.  Illuminated manuscript for Mindscape.  And then there’s a white one which has sort of sci-fi somebody inside bubbles.  Anyway, in the brown one, there’s a poem that reads:

Eyes of emerald stone

Sparkle from within a…

And the next word is missing.  Thank you very much, Donna Murphy.  (laughter)

DONNA MURPHY:  Was I even “quote” – I use the quote loosely – “on staff”?

MICHAEL:  Yes, your name is on staff.  So I found two contributions from you.  So you were a writer.  You were a paste-up person.  But let me ask you something, Donna, did you enjoy the things that Sally wrote for these issues?

DONNA MURPHY:   (pause) I’m sure I did at the time.  I have to review them.

MICHAEL:  Donna.  C’mon, Donna.  Get yourself out of this one.

DONNA MURPHY:  Wait a minute.  Did Sally never write a single thing?

MICHAEL:  Never. Never.

DONNA MURPHY:  Sally Welsh!  

SALLY:  I was too busy editing.

DONNA MURPHY:  You were withholding.

SALLY:  I held it in.  Yes I did.

MICHAEL:  Now, the other thing is, Sally was listed as Assistant Editor in four of the five issues on the desk here.  And in the last one, someone else – Norma – is the assistant editor.

SALLY:  There was a coup!

MICHAEL:  Someone was demoted.  And I think we need to talk about why that happened.  I think Donna should know about this.  Because it was the angriest I think I’ve ever been in my life.

CINDY:  I’ve heard about it repeatedly

MICHAEL:  Cindy’s heard about it.  We worked so hard on these beautiful treasured things here.  And we would sit in the hallway at a little table and we would sell them for – I don’t know – a dime or a quarter.  Couldn’t have been more than that.  A quarter was a lot back then.  And the money would come in and I’d use it to pay for that beautiful paper that I liked to go touch.  And I had to go to a class and Sally was there and she needed to go do something.  And she left the freakin’ box of Mindscapes in the hallway unattended!

SALLY:  I keep reminding him, the said thing is:  Nobody took one.  (laughter). And he was so upset.  And I said, “What for?”  This is much ado about nothing.

MICHAEL:  People who hear what’s gonna come next – which is the poems we’re gonna read – I think people will relate to what a terrible thing that was to do.

SALLY:  Because they could have been stolen.

MICHAEL:  They were stolen.  I counted them. (laughter). But anyway, before we start reading – because we’re going to read excerpts from Mindscape and let the world hear that this is really valuable stuff – and I mean that sincerely.  When I went through it, I was shocked.  People were so talented. And one of the things that I saw was that the kind of kids who presented themselves as smart kids didn’t do as well in Mindscape as other people who just flew under the radar and were excellent writers.  Excellent.  And my theory is that you could be a great student if you didn’t have sex. And the people who were having sex were so distracted.  They were the smart people.  They were the true smart people because they were smart enough to figure out what their genitals should do.  But they couldn’t focus.  So those like me – I was just alone with my own equipment and nothing to do with it —I could get A’s.  So I’m getting A’s.  Let’s get some guesses from anyone here of what topics were most popular.  I read every word of every Mindscape.  What topics do you think were most popular?  Donna?  Sally?

SALLY:  Ummmm…. Friendship.

MICHAEL:  Okay.  Anything else?

SALLY:  Desolation and despair.

MICHAEL:  That’s a good one.

SALLY:  I would say ‘Life in General.’

DONNA MURPHY:  That covers a lot of territory, Sally.  I’m with ya. (laughter)

MICHAEL:  Anybody have anything else they want to throw out there?

SALLY:  Ummm…. The beach.

MICHAEL:  The beach.  Um, okay.

SALLY:  Walking on the beach.

MICHAEL:  Okay, that was the lead-in for what I’m going to tell you.  The most popular topic is “sand on the beach.”  Because it gets washed away, washed away by time.  There are very many sand stories.  Another thing that’s a little surprising.  People do love the wind.  Some good parodies.  There was a parody of Gunga Din.  A parody of the Rolling Stones song “Angie.”  There was stuff about race and poverty.  People were writing about that.  Politics, Nixon, war – pollution was a big one.  And, of course, sex.  Sex was big. So the thing is, we went out and recruited everybody.

SALLY:  “We”???

MICHAEL:  Okay, I went out and recruited everybody.  And somebody wrote for Mindscape on How to Choose a Hockey Stick.  That was a goodie.  And the hoods – I got somebody to write, “Your First Motorcycle.”  You know, it was advice about your first motorcycle.  Times were more permissive then because the freaks wrote about buying some drugs and getting really high.  Do you remember our writing teacher, Mr. Rabin?

DONNA MURPHY:  Yeah.  Definitely. 

MICHAEL SMALL:  He must have written.  Because there were some from teachers.  They did it under anonymous names.  But there was one poem that quoted Aristotle, Dante, Tristram Shandy…. That was not a student at our school.  Then, the junior high – I think we’re gonna have some junior high readings – a real shocker there is that these were junior high kids going on, like, age 50.  We’re not gonna read this one but there was a junior high school poem about the forest which was all quiet and beautiful and sweet.  And then a woman is dragged through by a man who’s gonna rape her. That was a junior high student.

SALLY:  What?

MICHAEL:  We’re skipping that one because we’ve got others along those lines.  We were creative.  We did a page with German, French and Spanish poems.

DONNA MURPHY:  Really?  Wow.

MICHAEL:  Yeah.  We really covered a lot of ground.  But I think that it makes sense for us to start with sand.  And so, Donna, in the orange volume, page 25… we would love it if you’d read us that poem about sand.

DONNA MURPHY: So this is a poem written by Karen, Class of 1976.


I wrote your name

In cold, wet sand

And watched the gentle waves

Slowly remove all trace

Of what I had written there – 

Not caring what those letters meant to me,

Just smoothing out the shore.

And I wondered if when you are gone

There’ll be a tide that could as easily erase

The name that’s written 

On my soul. 


DONNA MURPHY:  Ah!   What??

SALLY:  That’s pretty amazing.  A 15, 16, 17-year-old wrote that. Wow.

DONNA MURPHY:  Yeah.  Pretty beautiful.

MICHAEL:  Wow.  That is intense.

CINDY: It’s really intense.

MICHAEL:  Yeah.  I’m telling you, the quality was pretty wonderful. And I think we’re gonna find the same thing when we get to the wind.  Now Donna, I believe this was sent to you by email.

DONNA MURPHY:  Okay.  Here it is.  This will be what we actors call a cold reading.  And we hate them.  (laughter) We don’t hate the content.  We hate the action of having to do them.  So this will be an experiment.  This is by Anne, Class of ’79.  


The wind my friend,

Who are you?

What are you?

You can’t be seen 

In day or night

But heard, oh yes, you can be heard.

So soft, so brisk, so wild and free.

It whispers a message unknown to us all.

And it passes us by, through tress and lush hills

And whispers a message, whispers a message.

The wind, my friend, 

Where do you live?

You build not a shelter nor have

You a shell to slide in and out of.

Are you so free, you need not a home 

To rest yourself?

I envy you then for being so free,

And you whisper a message, you

Whisper a message.


 SALLY:  Whoa.  That’s incredible.

DONNA MURPHY:  So beautiful.

MICHAEL:  That was a junior high school student who wrote that.

CINDY:  Oh my God. 

DONNA MURPHY:  Wooow.  I hope she wasn’t peeking then.  I don’t mean p-e-e-k, I mean p-e-a-k.  I mean, that is a gifted person.

MICHAEL: Speaking of gifted, I told you that sex was another popular topic.  So Donna we have another one for you.  You won’t have to read all of them.  There are other people coming up.  This is in orange book, page 9.

DONNA MURPHY:  Oh yeah. (laughter). Okay.  I don’t mean, like, it’s getting hot in my little office here.  When this through…. Okay, no more comments, just read it.  It’s written by Donna.  And I can assure you, it is not written by this Donna.  Okay?  Donna was a very popular name in girl children born in the late ‘50s and the early ‘60s.   Think about how many songs there were.  Anyway… this was a Donna from the Class of ’74.  And it was entitled, “Monday Morning Sonnet for a Belated Lover.”


Though I adore your passionate embrace,

My pretzel-bending days have disappeared

Nigh onto 20 years ago.  My dear,

For your own good, desert this hopeless case.

My body now has lost its lifelong race

Against the years, but yours has not.

I fear

That you should leave me now –

Direct that leer

Toward some girl who can take the frantic pace.

You’d better not feel sorry for me, though –

I’ve raised enough Cain in my early days

To last me many lifetimes.  Go ahead

And have your fun.  I’ll just stay 

Here in bed – 

I’m prefect content to watch the snow 

While you’re back in the springtime,

Making hay.


SALLY:  Oh, that was amazing!

CINDY:  Who in high school is thinking about aging?  And old people having sex?

SALLY:  She knew a Nobel Laureate who lived next door and came over and helped her.  (laughter). 

MICHAEL:  You know this is something that I keep wanting to bring up, which is that TS Eliot wrote The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock – which was “I grow old, I grow old” – he wrote that when he was 27.  And I remember when we studied it that the teacher said, “The best things written about old age were written by the young.”  But I think that since we’ve heard from one Donna, it is now time to hear from another Donna.  But not from her directly. Because I believe Sally is ready to read a couple of poems…

DONNA MURPHY: Oh, dear God.

SALLY:  Here it comes…

MICHAEL… that were written by Donna Murphy.

SALLY:  They may still be etched in your mind, Donna.  


A Gull’s Cry

by Donna Murphy


A gull’s cry sounds

Wistful and melancholy

But, as he leaps from

His salt-sprayed rafter

He finds happiness

In the open dish of sky


That’s lovely.

MICHAEL:  It is.

SALLY:  Donna…

DONNA MURPHY:  I wasn’t having sex.  It should have been better.  (laughter)

CINDY: And you weren’t imagining old people having sex.


SALLY:  If you thought that was something, now another poem by Donna Murphy.  This one is untitled.


Life – 

Is only present

To be developed and changed.

It grows within the realm 

Of adaptation.

Seek Life – 

Seek its joys and woes

And you shall relate to it

As it does to you

Don’t wait for storms to pass – 

Or deaths to cease

Dying is but life

In its second sense.

Observe the tree –

Its leaves fly,

And branches break –

Like birds flying south.

But the roots hold fast

And at the topmost branch

A young warbler will sing.

Yet man, 

An intelligent creature

Denies life –

In its true being

Man watches life

Only when he wants to

But not, 


When he should.

So when he ignores life –

He leaves it –

Never to fully return.


Donna!   Wow!

DONNA MURPHY:  Hmph.  I was trying to be deep, wasn’t I?

MICHAEL:  Were you a Bible reader?

DONNA MURPHY:  Noooo.  Why? Did I rip something off from the Bible?

MICHAEL:  I think maybe.  It has that whole “choose life” sort of thing – I believe it’s a sort of biblical kind of thing.  Anyway, it was very sweet and uplifting.

DONNA MURPHY:  I think that was ninth grade.

MICHAEL:  Wow.  That’s very impressive.

SALLY:  You made death sound good. (laughter)

DONNA MURPHY:  I know it.  I would probably write a different poem right now.  Of course, we would all write different poems.  Seriously, you know, your perspective is constantly shifting.  But it’s so interesting to hear these perspectives – in this case, of myself – of all these kids…

SALLY:  Yes.  Thinking “dying is but life in its second sense..”


MICHAEL:  Well anyway.  Haiku were very very very big.  And I’m going to move into a haiku mode because that poem that I could not find in any Mindscape was a haiku.  Speaking of the maturity of these young people, this is how this poem went that I never forgot.  And didn’t know what to make of it.  I remember, even I can see it.  It was handwritten on lined paper.  But very messy with big letters.  And it said:


Down in the freezer

He was frozen like a rock

I met my lover


That was submitted to us.

CINDY:  And you published it.

DONNA MURPHY:  He read a lot of Stephen King, I think.

SALLY:  Yeah really. (laughter)

MICHAEL:  But speaking of haikus, that brings to mind The Mistress of the Haiku, our very wonderful friend since fifth grade, Jackie DiBenedetto.  She is a legend in her own time.

CINDY:  Yay, Jackie!

MICHAEL:  And she contributed haiku to two different issues.  The first one is this…


The wind is blowing

A rock is untouched by it

While a leaf is moved


SALLY:  Very nice.

DONNA MURPHY:  I like it., 

MICHAEL:  I would say that that one is a metaphor for all of us to contemplate.  Speaking of haiku, Cindy, I’m wondering, would you be willing to read one for us?

CINDY: I thought you told me I wasn’t going to read.

MICHAEL:  Well, you can’t trust me.

CINDY:  Oh, c’mon!

DONNA MURPHY:  Uh oh.  Domestic squabble. 

MICHAEL:  Look at this up here.  Just three lines.

CINDY:  It’s a cold reading by a non-actress.  It’s written by Anonymous ’79.  And it’s recited by Anonymous ’79.  It’s called Grasping for Life.


The falling blue sky

Was not really falling

But just grasping for life


MICHAEL:  I love it.

DONNA MURPHY:  Oh.  Beautiful.

MICHAEL:  These kids, these people are profound.  Now, Sally, I think a little prose.  We haven’t had any prose yet.  You have some prosy things there.

SALLY:  I do.  This is very prosy.

MICHAEL:  Go for it.

SALLY:  Okay, Sue, graduating in the class of ’74 wrote this.  


My psychology teacher Mr. Miller stood before 28 blank faces trying to get across a very important idea.  For 30 minutes, he spoke to us and for 30 minutes I thought about lunch and how blue the sky was.  He rambled on and on about something, using words that should be locked up in a dictionary up in the attic and never let out.  His hand rose and fell from the blackboard, scribbling more and more words, and I tried to copy the way he made his "g's,," but he erased the board. So I continued looking out the window.  His words floated around the room for a while and died a neglected death.  For a brief second before the bell rang, I opened my ears and grasped his final sentence: “Class, as I said before, man does not need words to get across an idea.  He should use emotions to communicate.”


All right!

DONNA MURPHY:  I love it, Sue.

MICHAEL:  Now we did have some sound effects during that one.  Was anybody moving or touching anything?

SALLY:  Yup.  What was that?

DONNA MURPHY:  Okay.  I have to fess up.  I took a sip of water and the water bottle started to suck in. (laughter)

SALLY:  Maybe you should do a haiku on that.  Could you write a haiku on that, Donna? 

DONNA MURPHY:  So sorry!   Read it again.

MICHAEL:  No, I think we got the gist.  But Sally, do you have another prose story to read to us?

SALLY:  I do.  Yes.

DONNA MURPHY:  I’ll stay dry.

SALLY:  You got the water bottle cued up?

DONNA MURPHY:  No.  Unless you want it. (laughter)

SALLY:  Alrighty.  This is The Neighborhood Brat by DJM, class of ’74. 


Steven was the neighborhood brat and scapegoat.  And we:  Mary, Jack, Lynn and I, wanted nothing to do with him.  We never let him play with us unless he promised to die.  But once, after his mother yelled at us for not letting him play, he was allowed to join our game of hide and seek.  But after he had hidden, we all took off for Mary’s cellar.

We even tried to kill him with a poison sweet-tart one day.  The candy was covered with cologne, soap, hand lotion, and mud but before we gave it to him, we chickened out.  Then we flushed it down the toilet.

One afternoon, the doorbell rang four times.  It was Steven.  Following her natural reflexes, Lynn bawled him out for ringing so many times.  When she stopped yelling, he drew two white envelopes form behind his back and handed them to her.  She opened them and inside each was a small valentine.  They were both for her.



SALLY:  I like the poison Sweet Tart.

MICHAEL:  That was like one of those storytelling things on The Moth.  Anyway, I know we have a few more topics to get through.  Another topic that was big is: nature.  And, Donna, in orange book page 4, there’s the Spring Melt.

DONNA MURPHY:  Yes.  This is by Kathy, Class of ’75.  The Spring Melt.


The spring melt

Deposits an unusual gift outside my window.

A temporary pond

Springs up with the new grass,

The shape of a palette

With an island in the middle –

The ocean for children’s boats

And a puddle for leaky boots,

The stage for performing ducks

And a water dish for thirsty canines.

But more th an each of those,

It is a violin, gracefully stroked by the wind,

Whose sweet melodious ripples

Float up to my eyes.


MICHAEL:  Pretty.

DONNA MURPHY:  I love that.

SALLY:  I like that a lot.

CINDY:  These kids are so brilliant.

DONNA MURPHY:  It’s so vivid.

MICHAEL:  And not from a person you’d expect.  I know that person and you wouldn’t have expected that person to come up with that.  But Donna you have nature ones.

DONNA MURPHY:  Oh yes.  Okay.  This is by Barbra.  Class of ’75.


In mist that rolls down to the sea,

I walk, occasionally stopping to

Grind my toes in the sand, and 

Contemplate a man.

I think of his integrity and

The joy he gives me.

But, I think too about his evasiveness

And the pains it gives me.

Will I be strong?

Or again will our lives like the stars

Die before the sun’s glory and reveal

The bitter truth…


 Girl!   I mean, yeah!

MICHAEL:  Young people struggle.  That’s what I’m learning.

DONNA MURPHY:  But with just a depth of both feeling and reflection.  So she was in your class.  Is that something you would have expected necessarily from that individual?

MICHAEL:  Not at all.  And now another one you have on Page 14.

DONNA MURPHY:  This is by Sue, Class of ’74.  


The mountains look down 

In their cold majesty

At the people in the valley

And scowl at their vanity


SALLY:  Yeah.

CINDY:  Were there any bad poems in these books?

MICHAEL:   But there’s another good one coming up, which is… Sally, can you end our nature round here with your moon one?

SALLY:  The Great Aunt.  Yes.  Okay, this is called Great Aunt.  By “Andy,” Class of ‘75



The moon looks upon me

Like some great aunt,

Trying to mother me,

To lead me.


She looks cross,

And aloof.

The light

Which was guiding me

Is extinguished.

As the clouds bury her

Deep within their dark down

Cover her face, and 

Her frown.

Stumbling through

The dark and silence,

Something is tickling my nose.

It is snowing

She is crying

Long, cold tears.

She has given up.


DONNA MURPHY:  Mmm…. Lovely.

MICHAEL:  Yeah. So I think after that haunting picture of the moon, we need some humor and we’ve sort of assigned all that to Sally.  You’ve got three in a row here Sally.

SALLY:  Oh, this is fun. Okay.  The Hamburger b y Caroline of Class of ‘77


 Oh waiter!  Waiter!   Come here please!

I’d like a hamburger with a little bit of cheese

Just a plain hamburger, noting unique

You see I haven’t had one in nearly a week

You know I don’t like to be choosy

But onions really make me oozy

Do you think you’d mind leaving them out?

It’s a little trouble I don’t doubt

I really hate people who are picky

But I think ketchup’s icky

It would be much to leave that out too

If it’s possible I’d be delighted with you

Piddling people really are at fault

Would you mind putting on on extra salt?

Picky people really are fickle

Could you put on an extra pickle?

The roll I’d like done to a tender brown

And the mustard on it spread all around

Would you put on a touch of spice?

Yes, that would be very nice.

Thanks for my hamburger, it’s really supreme.

It shows that you’re right on the beam.

I’m sorry it was such a chore.

But I’m not hungry anymore.



SALLY:  Oh that was wonderful.

MICHAEL:  Sally, it was so much better than the doggerel kind of stuff you and I wrote.  Okay, you have another.

SALLY:  This is Metzgur’s Song.  And it’s by Curt, in the Class of ’77. 


You’re at the start, a Porsche in your hands:

Your tack on the dash reads eight or nine grand

The man raises the flag, the tension is much

Down goes the flag, you let out the clutch

You’re spinning your wheels, you’re in the lead

Forty-five feet of rubber, you bang second speed

You’re around the first bend and into the straight

You step on the gas – you’re doing 108

There’s a modified Z-28 on your ass

You’re into the corner, he’s trying to pass

You’re at the corner, you take it with ease

You’re into the straight, you say “Goodbye, Z!”

Into the next corner, you begin to sail

You go into a spin and hit the rail

The car is totaled, you lost the race

And that damn Z-28 came in first place.


SALLY:  Awww… that’s nice.

MICHAEL:  I mean, that was where we were getting people who… you know, that was somebody who clearly was into that kind of thing.

DONNA MURPHY:  Yeah.  Who might not have been otherwise been drawn to writing a poem.

MICHAEL:  Exactly. He couldn’t escape me.  I’d track him down. Sally – I think if you’d read Kinda Shy, then I’ve got one.

SALLY:  Okay.  This is really sweet.   Kinda Shy.


There was a man who kinda met

A special kinda girl

She kinda made his head feel strange

She kinda made it whirl


They kinda fell in love that day

He kinda asked her out

He kinda talked, and talked, and talked

Not knowing what about

She kinda wondered why this was

She kinda asked him why

He kinda answered quiet-like

“’Cause I am kinda shy.”


ALL:   Awwww…

SALLY:  That was from anonymous.

MICHAEL:  Well, here is a last humorous one, which is a parody of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  Which I’ll try to… It’s not like I can sing but it needs something like that to make it work.  It’s by Danny, Class of ’78.  It’s called Lady Bug in the Sky with Diamonds.


Picture yourself in your house taking aspirin

You’re feeling so strange, your hair is in knots.

Suddenly something is there on your doorstep

A small orange bug with black spots.


Ladybug in the sky with diamonds


Ten giant silk moths of yellow and green

Flying all over your head.

Pull out the bug spray and look for the bugs

And they’re gone.


Tulip tree silk moths appear in the woods

Waiting to fly you away

Climb on their wings and fly up in the clouds

And you’re gone.


Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With ten spotted dragonflies and queen honey bees.

Something is on you, you slap it quit quickly

It puts two big bumps on your knees.


Ladybug in the sky with diamonds


Get off the boat and climb onto a doc

Where strange purple termites eat honey locust pine.

All of them smile as you walk on the anthills

That pile up around a small sign.




MICHAEL:  I think after all that happiness, we need a little more sadness.  So, Donna, on orange page 29, we have something called The Crow.

DONNA MURPHY:  Here we go.  The Crow.  


She stares out of the window

Into the bleak, grey dusk.

Her breath making fog on the panes

Watching a lone crow strut

Back and forth across the brown grass.

A haze lightly floating, settling on it.

Alone in the transparency of the approaching darkness,

It seeks out somewhere to go.

Is there somewhere in this world

With its myriad of places preaching

Love and Brotherhood (plastic mean ings all),

Where a lonely, black crow could go

And be welcomed and understood? 

Does she see a reflection of herself in that small vignette?


MICHAEL:  Once again, intense.

DONNA MURPHY:  Beautiful.  Beautiful.

MICHAEL:  Well, it’s worth talking about the illustrations.  You know, we did sort of like the New Yorker.  We’d get all the poems in.  And then we would ask people to make little illustrations that went with the poems.  And then we’d insert them.  People didn’t always love what we did.  But when you talk about talent, we really really need to mention Brenda Moore who was our art director and was so talented.  And she could just whip those things off in 10 different styles.  And the art teacher would help give assignments.  So we would say, “We need a tree in winter.”  And they would give us that.  We also started giving the Golden Mindscape Award.


MICHAEL: Yeah. Me.  And so this is by someone who is so talented.  And we’re just going to use the initials SML, Class of 75.  The winner of the Golden Mindscape Award.  Donna, if you could read this one, that would be great.

DONNA MURPHY:  I would be honored to.  I always looked up to this person, I just want to say. Because she was multitalented in a variety of areas and ways.  And she was also very kind and supportive of other people, including me.  And so I’m so happy to be able to read:  To Be Somebody.


If she could be somebody

She'd scale the Wall of China

and play hopscotch on top of Mount Everest

a reed at her lips

would play in harmony with the wind

and draw men to her feet

like the pied piper inundated with rats.

She'd be a mermaid with coral anklets

and countless pearl rings

as she rode laughing porpoises

and cared for her aquatic friends

Instead of...

three cats

two kids

a dog

and two gerbils

her eyes would focus upon a demitasse of English Tea

in a country garden at Stratford-on-Avon

Yet... they stare bleakly at a Smokey the Bear mug 

of 97% decaffeinated coffee

In the middle of Brooklyn

Perhaps the geraniums grow back outside her window after all.


MICHAEL:  How did people in Topsfield have the vision of a sad housewife in Brooklyn?  So along the lines of sadness, I have another one that was written not by me – it was written by a Mike B. who is someone that we know and it’s also a little surprising.  And it’s called Darkness.


Again tonight

The trees have counseled me among their darkness

And silence.

They weep for me at this hour,

This sacred hour that stands between the plight of my day

And the torture of my dreams.

They pray for me in the darkness.

I am loved in the darkness

And I will die in the darkness.


 SALLY:  Whoa!

MICHAEL:  I just can’t resist a little more darkness to bring you down.  Notice how I’ve gotten very involved in the “darkness” section. This one is called:  Death, You Came. And it’s by April, Class of ’79.  Which means that it’s written by a junior high school student.



You came

Sneaking, sliding, slipping

From day to day

Getting closer and closer.

You came

Laughing and gloating

Feeling triumphant that you would

Take his life, getting closer and closer.

You came

Knowing that every 

Step you took was inflicting pain on him

Yes, you must have taken thousands of steps

Every one bringing you closer and closer

You came

Bringing hitchhikers like

Spinal taps and cardiograms

Doctors and nurses whose opinions were all different

Plaster and x-rays

And you were getting closer and closer

And one day

You got there.


MICHAEL:  Now I’m kind of sorry that I read it.

CINDY:  Did that person lose a parent?

MICHAEL:  I don’t know.

CINDY:  Heartbreaking.

MICHAEL:  Another poem that is hard to believe it was written by a junior high student and it’s on page 37 on the orange issue.  Donna – you feel you could read it for us? 

DONNA MURPHY:  Okay.  So this is by Kathy, Class of ’78.  


When I was a candle

You were my flame.

When I was a lion

You made me tame.

Now you’re a dagger

Aimed straight for my heart.

Now I’m alone

And we are apart.


SALLY:  I was just thinking of… you know, in the halls… you’re walking down the halls everyday and there are just throngs of kids and you’re giving a nod to them as they walk by and we just don’t know what’s in those heads.  All that darkness.  And the profundity.  It’s so cool.

DONNA MURPHY:  It is. It’s amazing.  Amazing.

MICHAEL:  Now we just have to get to the non-brilliant.  Because there’s one person whose stuff we have not covered who was a writer there.  And you’re talkin’ to him.  And I have to say… the stuff that I wrote was just crap.  I mean, I took that poem that you and I started in one class about Marshall’s, the discount store and I expanded it onto three pages and it was… terrible.  Full of misspellings.  It wasn’t funny.  The meter wasn’t good.  Then I did this thing called The Ten Commandments for Jocks, where I shaped it like The Ten Commandments – and said what jocks have to do, the rules they have to follow.  But it wasn’t subtle.  It was… it was not good.  And in the original Kaleidoscope, the year before we took over Mindscape, they put two of my pieces in for some reason.  One piece was called On the Beach.  And it was about me walking by a tent with two people inside seemingly making love.  I start to walk by and instead of doing that I hope the tent and say, “Can I join you?”  (laughter).  So, based on all of that, I will not read anything I wrote for Mindscape.  I know how disappointed you must be.

CINDY:  (fake crying)

MICHAEL:  Don't get too upset.  Because you know those boxes in Nancy's garage are pretty much stuffed with poems and stories written by you know who.  And at some point, they will cry out to be heard…

SALLY:  Please, not today!

MICHAEL:  Yes.  Not today.  As we come to the end of today's festivities, I'm hoping that Donna will read Josh's item.  Which kind of sums things up. On page 9.   



The future

Now present

The present

Now past

The past 

Not forgotten

The forgotten

So vast


MICHAEL:  Which leads us to these things that we kept.

CINDY:  How many do you guys have?  Sally do you have any?

SALLY:  Any what?

CINDY:  Mindscapes.

SALLY:  Oh no.  No, I have an excuse.  I had a flood in my basement.  I’m sure I had one or two.

MICHAEL: And, as we’ve seen, Donna has a few.

DONNA MURPHY:  I have the two that of course have poems of mine in them.

CINDY:  Well, of course.

DONNA MURPHY:  You know I’m the oldest of seven kids and that house is still exploding with the life of all of those children.  Because no one took their stuff out and my mother never threw anything out.  So I think on some visit home in my ‘40s, she had pulled these out and said, “You have poems in these.  And I thought you might want them.”  And I’m not getting rid of these, Michael. 

SALLY: Just don’t leave them out in the hallway all alone.  (laughter)

CINDY:  I want to see Michael get rid of them.

MICHAEL:  Well, that’s the thing.  After what you’ve heard today, would you throw these out?  I mean, come on!  It was excellent.

SALLY:  Absolutely not.  No.  This was such an eye-opening experiment today.  I would love to reach in and contact these people and just be with them for a little while and read them what they wrote.  But that will never happen.

DONNA MURPHY:  Yeah. It’s just really a tribute to the fact that there was an outlet for you to take something that you wrote at that moment in time in high school and in junior high – and for some people, really an act of courage to submit it.  There’s so much that people had inside, whether it was their imaginations or just some depth of humanity that they could access.  I’m talking about the more serious ones, you know.  But there are also extremely clever and funny things as well.  I’m so proud that I was a part of it, and I’m so sorry that I was so inept at my publishing skills.

MICHAEL:  Donna, we want to say that we think that you have developed other skills that are valuable for humanity.  And anything you were wanting in the Mindscape area is now forgotten and expiated via this event.  And we’re so glad you joined us and I am not throwing out the Mindscapes and you really helped us with yet another failure.  Thank you very much.

DONNA MURPHY:  I’m sorry, Cindy!

CINDY:  I know!  I thought this was a throwing-out podcast.

SALLY:   Donna – this was a blast.  Thank you so much!

DONNA MURPHY:  So much fun.  My pleasure.  Thank you so much.  I loved being a part of it.  Take good care.

SALLY:  We’ll keep in touch.

DONNA MURPHY:  Okay I hope so.  Bye bye.




I couldn’t throw it out

I had to scream and shout 


MICHAEL:  Many thanks for joining us to witness the wonders of Mindscape.

SALLY:  (whispering) Mindscape. (laughter)

MICHAEL: And we send heartfelt thanks our life-long pal Donna Murphy, who has brought so much love, laughter and entertainment to our lives for so many decades.  You may never get the thrill of seeing Donna as a stripper in Gypsy. But you can see her as Mrs. Astor on HBO's The Gilded Age, which is from Julian Fellowes, the same fellow who brought you Downton Abbey.  We dedicate this episode to the memory of our wonderful English teachers Marty Rabin, Paul Janeczko, Kathy Cavanaugh, and my mom Doris Small, who was Donna Murphy’s eighth grade English teacher.  If she were still with us, Doris might want to claim responsibility for everything Donna has accomplished since then. But she could definitely take the blame for my own love of poems, stories, and exaggeration.  We also want to honor Sally’s mom Barbara Welsh, who was also an English teacher at Masconomet.  At age 96, Barbara is still inspiring us with her wit, wisdom, and kindness.  And we want to give a special shout out to Norma Richman, who did so much to help Mindscape after Sally had to walk the plank. We know you’re all dying to see actual pictures and poems from Mindscape – along with Cindy’s extreme  ly funny illustration of Donna Murphy’s poem.  So we posted them on our website,  If you like what you heard on this episode, please go to Apple Podcasts and give us a rating – which will help us a lot. MANY thanks to those who have already rated us!  Our theme song is performed and co-written by Boots Kamp, Jen Ayers, and Don Rauf, leader of the super-band Life and a Blender – known for writing most of our favorite pop songs.  Hear their music at   And all we’ve got today.  Right Sally?

SALLY:  That’s right, Michael!

MICHAEL:  Yes!  Well, goodbye everyone until our next episode.  For now, it’s o ver and out.

SALLY:  Over and out.

CINDY:  (laughter)

THEME SONG:  I Couldn't Throw It Out
 Performed by Don Rauf, Boots Kamp, and Jen Ayers
 Music by Boots Kamp and Don Rauf
 Lyrics by Don Rauf and Michael Small
 Out here in Nancy's – her big garage
This isn't a mi-  This isn't a mirage
Decades of stories, memories stacked
There is a redolence of some irrelevant facts.

But I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout
 It all seems so unjust
But still I know I must
 Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out

Well, I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I'll sort through my possessions
In these painful sessions
I guess this is what it's about
The poems, cards and papers
The moldy musty vapors
I just gotta sort it out.

Well I couldn't throw it out
 I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out










Donna MurphyProfile Photo

Donna Murphy

Poet Turned Actress, and Lifelong Pal

Donna Murphy is an award winning Theater, Film and Television actress. Broadway and Off Broadway credits include: Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Passion (Tony, Drama Desk Awards), The King and I (Tony Award), Wonderful Town (Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Astaire Awards, Tony nom.), Lovemusik (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards, Tony nom.), The People in the Picture (Tony, Drama Desk noms.), Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello Dolly, Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Twelve Dreams, and Hello Again at Lincoln Center Theater ( Drama Desk noms.), and Helen of Troy in Tony Kushner’s production of Ellen McLaughlin’s Helen at the New York Shakespeare Festival (Drama League nom.) She had the great pleasure of starring in three additional works of Mr Sondheim’s: Into the Woods for the New York Shakespeare Festival (Drama Desk, Drama League noms.), and Follies and Anyone Can Whistle for City Center Encores!. Film credits include: “The Bourne Legacy”, “Center Stage”, “Star Trek:Insurrection”, ”The Nanny Diaries”, “Higher Ground”, “Dark Horse”, the voice of “Mother Gothel” in Disney’s animated hit, “Tangled”, Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” and “Spider Man 2”. On other screens: HBO’s “Someone Had to Be Benny” (Daytime Emmy Award), Netflix’ “Inventing Anna”, PBS’ “Mercy Street”, Starz’ “Power”, Mary Todd Lincoln in TNT’s “ The Day Lincoln Was Shot”, HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” as Headmistress Burton, and is currently co-starring as Mrs. Caroline Astor in Julian Fellowes’ “The Gilded Age” for HBO. She will next be seen onstage in March 2023 in NY City Center’s Encores! Production of Jerry Herman’s Dear World , starring as Countess Aurelia.