Categories
Poems

The Heat

Gaugain
Paul Gauguin – Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch, 1892.

In this heat,
With the cicadas buzzing
Like chainsaws
And the dogs panting
Like lovers
There is nothing to do
But sweat
And sleep
Sweat
And sleep
Sweat
And sleep
Until you wash yourself
In the warm ocean
Until the rain falls
And turns the land green
Until the moon rises
And the heat
Like a cat
Curls up for a nap.
And then, only then,
Can you breathe.

Categories
Poems

The Housefire

“The Housefire” is a short narrative poem written in free verse.  It describes a moment caught in time.

Fire at the Opera House
Hubert Robert – The Fire at the Opera House of the Palais-Royal, ca. 1781.

 

She had skin
As smooth
As a watermelon’s
And eyes
As bright
As butterflies.
She stood,
Frozen for a moment,
With her mouth open,
So that her round white teeth
And the tip of her pretty
Pink tongue
Were just visible.

Her arm was outstretched,
Like a medusa
Under a deep sea.

I could understand her.

I suppose that’s
How
I might stand too
If I came home,
And I, like her,
Found my home
Burning.

Categories
Poems

The Prison

This poem is about the prisons that we make for ourselves.

It’s written in free verse.

800px-Deliveranceofstpeter
Rafael – The Deliverance of St. Peter, 1514.  Fresco in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.

It was just a little prison,
But its walls were hard as iron
And its jailers were resolute bastards.
They hung men, day and night,
Hung them even in my dreams
So that as I lay sleeping, fearful,
I watched ghostly rebels
Swinging by their necks,
Dozens of them,
Swinging through the mists,
From nightmare gallows.

It was just a little prison,
But it kept me from being free.
It stopped me from doing
The things that I wanted to do.

It was just a little prison,
But I made it bigger
With bricks of fear
And mortar made of doubt.
The bars were of ignorance,
And I paved the floor
With missed opportunity.
I roofed the ceiling
With a broad sheet of discomposure
That covered up the sky.
Because why the hell not?
I thought I might as well.
I can’t see any distance anyway,
When I lose my temper.

It was just a little prison,
But at least I was my own warden,
And my own jailer too.
I could deny those visitors,
Courage and wisdom.
It was just a little prison,
But I made it
All by myself.

Categories
Poems

The Bird

This poem tells of a little bird that grew inside me. The poem is written in free verse.

still-life-with-three-dead-birds-cherries-redcurrants-and-insects-jean-baptiste-oudry-1712-4810f396
Jean-Baptiste Oudry – Still Life with Three Dead Birds, Cherries, Redcurrants, and Insects, 1712.

“It’s good,” said the little sparrow in my breast,
As if sparrows could talk,
As if sparrows in breasts could talk.
So saying, the sparrow encouraged the egg to grow.

And so the egg developed.
It grew in its nest,
One made of thorny vines,
Bent sticks, and poison oak.

“And look, soon it will be hatching.”
First its beak pierced
The shell of my bloody heart,
And then out, through that shell, came a head.

Out came the little chick, Wrath,
Whom I’d been nursing for years.
I fed it on worms and belladonna,
Nurtured it, and taught my hate to fly.

“Go on, dear bird, fly far,” I told it.
But it never did, no.
It stayed, circling my head,
Because I had cared for it well.

And now, now that I am old,
I cannot make it leave.

Categories
Poems

Passion

Passion is a short poem in free verse.

It is a request that passion teach no more hard lessons.  No broken hearts, no scars or scabs, just love.

IMG_7088
Jacaranda blossom, Guadalajara, Mexico.  March 29th, 2019

Passion, amid that fair skulduggery that is Time,
Teach me no more hard lessons;
I need no more legions of tormenting lesions.
Leave me only love—soft as a pheasant,
Enduring as space—until my passing.

Categories
Poems

An Old Green Bottle

An old green glass bottle is opened at a lakeside party. Fireworks burst in the night. Above the revelers, a good spirit sits upon the clouds, fishing for kind deeds and words.
The poem is written in free verse.

Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin - Still Life with Plums

An old olive green bottle with its label faded and worn
Is shaken by its neck. Its contents churn and whisk.
Its settlings rise up and whirl in the heaving swirl.
There’s a sharp pop as its cork is unstoppered,
Then an eddying flow as the amber liquid is poured.
From out its mouth comes a dear beverage
That fills the glasses which are toasted
To fireworks in the night sky and which set to riot
The lakeside revelers who dance beneath
Moonsilvered racks of billowing clouds.
Up above them, a good spirit is fishing.
He’s dropped his line from the sky to earth.
His beard is of curled cloud, and his eyes are twinkling stars.
His body is made of mist.
From time to time he catches, from the people below,
What he’s fishing for:
A kind word, a bit of hope,
Something to lead another
Through dark days.
He reels up such a catch, this kind spirit, and he
Observes what he’s got, there on the end of the line.
It glimmers, gleams, and shines.
When he laughs, he laughs with joy,
And all go running to get out the coming rain,
For they can hear the thunder rumbling
High above.

Categories
Poems

The Luthier Alone in His Workshop

The Luthier Alone in His Workshop tells the story of a solitary old violin maker who, when he is fixing a violin, suddenly decides to play it in his shop.  He plays a song by Johan Sebastian Bach.  The music fills the room, and when he stops, there is an echo, then silence.

The poem’s written in free verse.

IMG_2577
David Murphy – Dahlia.  Point Defiance Rose Garden, Tacoma, Washington.  2016.

Amid vacuousness,
vagueness, silence

ear to horsehair strings
(pluck, pluck, twing)

The luthier: polar, hoary hair
rivuleted, waxen face

planes, calipers, chisels
ebony bench

Sigggggghhhhhhh…..
stands, nestles, adjusts, lifts

bow strikes strings
(saw, pling, pling)

tattoo of sound
exequy of hush

a roaring, a splendor!
a workshop suffused.

(pling, saw saw, rush, whine orble, fade, seern, seeOyurn)
(pluck, pluck) hearken (saw) hearken (pluck, pluck) tune
(saw, neeor, seeor, zhhhh)

inhale
exhale
inhale
exhale

J.S. Bach
Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: VII.
Gigue.

Resonance, reverberation decamp
ultimate echo.

Categories
Poems

Circadian Memory

This is a poem about the reflections of a people and their city, both the reflections of their lives and the reflections of their place.

Luminous
Gaston Petridis – Asian Rainy Day

In April when the cherry trees bloom,
City folk are reflected in the spring rain’s puddles,
By water that serves as mirrors for impressions.
Wind whips billowy clouds into an approaching eastern gloom,
While upon the shiny street, a poor wayfarer huddles
Beneath imposing windows that reflect metropolitan professions.
The sunbeams leave long, plum-shaded shadows beyond buildings
Whose western walls are washed by beams in apricot and tangerine
While in this gleaming twilight, a black cat’s lime-gold eyes glint,
And hazy rays catch the rich institutions’ burnished gilding.
Night falls abruptly upon folk fat and merry, lonely and lean.
The cat leaps, and houses’ windows glow with a lemony tint.
People’s reflections disappear.
Darkness washes the edifices in shades of coal and emery.
In the night, people’s luminous private lives appear,
And the recollection of the day disintegrates to circadian memory.

Categories
Poems

The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore

“The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore” describes a beach along the Olympic Peninsula and tells of the indigenous Makah people whom I took an interest in during 2017.  The free verse poem relies on imagery.  I found the book The Sea Is My Country by Josh Reid and the Makah Cultural and Research Center to be good sources of information about Makah culture.

Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach, Washington, 2017.  Photo by David Murphy.

Along the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula—
harbored by sea stacks,
washed by the ablutions of frequent rain,
and scrutinized by the salmon-keen eyes of fierce eagles
who sit perched with feathers made wet and salty by ocean spray—
lies a beach spliced by piney evergreens and the wintry Pacific Ocean.

It wears as its mantle a cloak of becoming fog:
wide filaments of thick mist wreathe the beach’s shoulders,
narrow wisps tuck into the crevices of teeming pine,
and, like a stole, that pale brume softly embraces
the necks of the majesterial, protruding stones.
The beach’s curvaceous, serene form lies upon its side
with its back to the land, knees tucked up against the tide,
with its stone lips ever kissing the briny, icy waves.
Water is its heart. In the rain, in the sea and spume,
throbs the lifeforce that begets the beach’s growth and decay,
shapes its projecting stone fingers, and creates its austere beauty.

In the night, the wan moon with its grey craters
beams down on sword ferns glowing nearly phosphorescent
and flashes on the bottle-gold eyes of great horned owls.
The moon turns milky the evergreen forest that adorns
the beach’s hips, and the moon tints the bleached driftwood
from day’s ivory to an iridescent alabaster of night.
That moon casts upon the beach’s cliffs a lustre
that speaks of shining rock, and, with its hushing silence,
it seems to make the surf’s voice boom.
With wind, the beach’s trees move sinuously and with susurrant song.
In the moonlight, upon the beach’s damp and footless shore,
lie whips of bull kelp, washed up and drying,
with algae blades like Medusa’s chaotic hair, their origins
in the marine forests of stone mantlepieces and rocky shelves.

The crows cackle madly in their rookery, the wind whishes,
surf roars, eagles scream, seals honk and bark and cry,
clouds morph then rework their hues, tides ebb and rise,
marshy mushrooms rise and rot with the sun’s circling,
the fragrance of evergreen sap freshens the air, salmon run,
gulls bed their island colonies with bones, osprey preen and fish,
glossy baneberries bear fruit like murderous scarlet pearls,
and purple mountain saxifrage color the cliffs.

In antiquity, the Makah resided here
using yarrow for childbirth, red cedar for dugout canoes,
yellow cedar for clothing, spermaceti for candles,
stones buffed by water to high polish and wound
by withy willows for anchor stones, having halibut for dinner,
sea otter teeth and whale fins for art, cherry bark for basketry
which tightens as it dries, and bones for awls and adze handles.
They used tides and stones and fences to catch fish,
laid white clam shells on the tidal floor for better contrast
to see the fish in their traps. On a crisp, windy spring night
six hundred years ago, the tribe gathered on the damp beach
after partaking in a feast of salmon, octupus, and halibut
for a sacred ritual conducted to send its rowers and harpooners offshore
in a twelve-seater canoe to hunt whale. A chief chanted,
sang, worked the crowd into a frenzy before the night fire,
and when the throng felt most animated, the chief
poured whale oil onto the fire, so that it soared, crackling to
a crescendo, rose like the wave of a tsunami, and
in the dark night the bellowing and shrieking
of the Makah were swallowed up by the forest.

Over this desolate beach there is a kind of peacefulness:
gently lapping waves, the soft pattern of rain,
the rustle of a crow’s wings. It appears desolate, Shi Shi,
here in winter.

Categories
Poems

The Ghost

A poem about lovemaking, which is like a ghost that lives in a home.

Maria Kreyn - Ghosts
Maria Kreyn – Ghosts

Lovemaking haunts our spirits,
The way a phantom inhabits a home.
The sex is at first tormenting,
A rattling of the pots and cabinet doors of our hearts.
What could cause our bodies to shake so?
We curse, not knowing quite what shakes us.
Then when the lovemaking, the phantom, is gone—
We miss it, we desire it.
We silently invite it back.
We miss the banging, the crashing, the confusion,
The chaos—all that the ghost, the sex, has brought.
Where could that spirit have gone?
We wonder, arbitrarily, if the ghost, the lovemaking,
Has gone to inhabit someone else’s home.
We shiver, thinking, “Someone else is fucking—and it’s not me!”
Jealousy invades our hearts,
Then we whisk the jealousy away again.
We think, “It is not productive to have such thoughts.
Not when there is work to be done—
There are chores to be attended to,
Families to be raised, and
Things to do. There’s no time to be thinking about sex.”
But still, like the phantom in our homes,
Unseen, the lovemaking anguishes our spirits.
Where could that ghost of lovemaking have gone?
And when at last we find it again,
We are soothed, for a brief moment,
And we leave our suffering, for a while,
Abandoned next to our clothes,
And we embrace the spirit, the lovemaking,
In an exultation of joy and delight.