Saturday, November 25, 2017


THREE POEMS by Michelle Murphy

How to Canter under Anesthesia

This is how we roll
a starfish in our eye or gun
fired (synapsis                before going
under another wave
We wail thread
our forearms with initials
veins slit wounded blue
Smooth the grass down smooth
our heartbeats against the blades
when our palms unfold
we can read the future
Excuse me if there’s something
I need When your blood runs hot
it rattles through these stories
This is not the first time I’ve lost
to faith or faith has lost
to me The river freezes
my arteries drags me under painless
and I emerge rock torn bone
scraped waiting to be wrung
out left to dry on a shore of white gravel
This is how we roll
I thought your shadow was
a ghost or maybe
moving out of any frame
of reference moving from one
road to another without
consequence or direction Converted
without knowing to flesh
At any rate we say
moving the conversation
whatever is left sweeping the vowels into
open pockets where ghosts dig
deep scrape like snakes amid the seams
I stopped looking
for omens except occasionally
when the moon evacuates the sky and stars
tip at the Sierra’s edge
or I touch you & all the poisons
that vein my breasts momentarily wane
there is just this my body of stitched
horses cantering proceeding without
a compass, only stars

Synonym for Home

1. Abode.  Any living space is space living. We are living above the Jiffy Lube and then it’s August, not much left in the refrigerator. "Look under the couch" often used jocularly in a mock-formal tone.

2. Apartment: A living space consisting. Coexisting. Conjuring. Conning. There’s a circling, a wand of pale dolor sprinkled over the furniture. You are telling a story that involves figures I’ve never met. We are of one or more rooms about it, a complex unit of two.  

3. Billet: Quarters in a private home assigned to shadows, to footsteps and military order, to “Anonymous.” You have decided to grow a mustache and look so much like a deceased relative that your great aunt holds out her hand, traces her finger over your lips. "Welcome home," she says.

4. Boardinghouse: A house that provides some room. I sleep with one eye open.  Multiple latches and locks and an arsonist lives below, never looks me in eye. He stares at my boots. ”Those are boy’s shoes,” he says. We stand in the kitchen, and watch our bagels burn.

5. Bungalow: A small one-or one-and-a-half-story house. The kind we dreamed as kids.  We’d live in this bungalow with two or more rabbits, make crepes and grow lemon trees. The story ends there.

6. Cabin: Originally, a small, crudely constructed one-story dwelling. One made of gingerbread or graham cracker paths, a place where ovens run too hot for comfort. This one has four identical beds; four identical blue plaid comforters. Often refers to memories we’ve left unassigned, amorphous. Scratches on the bathroom door are courtesy of a long dead dog. A watercolor of a boat that isn't. A vacation home may be quite large or psychically complex.

7. Caravan: A British English synonym for trailer. In Germany after a long day fighting with her boyfriend, the mother takes off in the Volkswagen camper, her boyfriend left to fend for himself.  Exhausted, she parks on the outskirts of a dark town. At night there are voices; gypsies quietly speaking near the van, discussing this and that.  The mother whispers in her sleep.

Intermezzo & Single Tanka

I couldn’t save you
from this coup of crazy
its syllables branching out across this land
rambling, and that’s not the worst of it
I couldn’t save myself.
What is it you’re trying to say &
I don’t know anymore.  

At the edge of this neglected rose
garden of bifurcated thorn and browning branch
past soil the color of wood ash, a cottonwood tree, full of June
sheds across public boundaries, splashes
a reverse Rorschach of white over the Truckee River.
Your bed levitates at night, you believe, a zeppelin rising
above this nursing home, leaving it all behind.

Pull of memory’s half tones,
& large-scale absences means that only a plumb line
can begin to measure amnesia’s depth,
the steep slope of evaporation as one western season
ends and vapor beads rise above the earth’s core
out of the electric chatter’s frame.

A photograph scaled to fit a family
momentarily removes displacement.
Tilt & relief.

Everything happens
outside this pair of photos
fugues overlap
please don’t step too far to the left
the frame can not hold you

I try to recall a line map
of birthdays, of roads reeled,
your gray eyes, language soughed in ungentle sloping,
crowding numbers on a clock,
trading lapses for a cloistered lexicon to
and box of Papermate felt tip pens.

(or were they blue?)
A drawing composed of subdivided lines,
of meter.

Particular boundaries are singular.
Particular memory is entered.
Tides move particularly inside a full moon
neurons firing, reconstructing
a map of syntax and confabulation.

Red-tailed hawks glide the currents of your mind-sky,
you shoo them away with a sweep of your hand.
Watch the river recede in inches, listen as stones
clatter across this deafening shore.
Sagebrush, rabbitbrush, greasewood and willow;
dolls, card games, cadenza – a fervent gleaning of names,
this certain sweeping away.

Under is another story
with vowels bright, spit-shined,
particular as sudden singular.

[”Synonym for Home” and “Intermezzo & Single Tanka” were first published in VERSE/Volume 33 (editors: Brian Henry and Andrew Zawacki, University of Richmond).


Michelle Murphy is the author of the chapbook The Tongue in its Shelf (Standing Stones Press) and full-length collection Jackknife & Light (Avec Books) shortlisted for the National Poetry Series as well as the PEN West Literary Award. Recent work includes poetry in Barzakh, The American Journal of Poetry, (b)OINK, and a chapbook (portfolio) of poems in VERSE Journal as a finalist in the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize . She lives in Reno, Nevada.

No comments:

Post a Comment