As the world shrinks, wrists and ankles grow
more bare. Frost nips at forearms and ankles
won’t feel and heel during trips to the market.
The brilliant drying humor tans hides
ducking into ice-coolers and beach water.
Everywhere, under garments clinch crotches.
The turtle with a small shell
covers genitals with cold extremities.
Squeezing smiles from their middles,
the sun and moon smear sardines
with O-zone depletion and extinct wild life.
On the line after being laundered for legal use,
the backyard contains five continents
and neighbors leaning over border fence girdles.
If Daisy goes into the garden to pick friends,
she needs a lakefront-sized vase in which
to put them. When Yasemin opens a window,
exotic spices spruce up her life. A cup of sugar
from next door continues to grace the planet,
but morning stretches sock an ethnic group
in jaws, leaving teeth for biting only.
New habits demand night and day
from the locals or the last generation
begins digging graves. Tradition
may have to follow the seat in pants
for eons to kingdom come. With Randy
wearing out miles in various footwear,
empathy has gone as far as it can go.
Once Alice wore a wooden dress,
and all was right with the word.
The honest Samaritan approaches
the impossible with respect in a can.
At Alms Length
The generous folk give here
to keep poverty there.
A red cent buzz-saws the poke
from the pauper; an annual
contribution sets crowded refugees
adrift. The gulf between
valuable human resources
and granite or blue skies
may desire a marriage,
but courters with wallets
prefer to flush funds
so each child may learn in time,
or not. Meanwhile need teaches
recipients poor health and death.
The stitches that would seam
the pockets together
and remove required kindness,
spoil on a spool.
Charity patches intellect
and should shame the politician.
The Porous and Vicarious Legend
Mr. Magnanimous absorbs the slights to the marrow
and writes a blank check in return. Eye witnesses
swear trains pass through a big heart,
and that Generous won’t be found in his shoes.
Distant cousin Robin Hood took arrows,
wore a sling, and drove a fire truck
for the peasants. The poor go barefoot
and use the altruism to buy staples for a whole year.
The big guy with a furrowed brow
throws his arms over shoulders
and feels the pain at neighborhood nerve centers.
Body bits, indeed attitudes, embed beneath other skin.
Even in leather, passion now deceased
can be detected and understood.
Yet, the missing person case grows cold
for the best detectives and so is buried
beneath selfish bastards stealing identities.
The breathing Zerro enters the scene, moods change,
and a fractured community agrees that evil has bombed.
But then pockets for stashing birthright
or collecting semblance turn out empty with holes in them.
All That Is Might With the World
Even in the commuter age drive
distributes hunger and coercion
to power the marginal
and main street pipe organs.
Livers and legs harmonize
resentment and dreams,
a hard swallow song.
The starving don’t always want;
the wanton always lack.
Short-lived memory cards
grant mother boards towers
and the lucrative corporate circuitry,
while laborers fill holes with their bodies.
Tomorrow brings focus away
from alternatives also
and burns through pockets
of resistance. Dog whistles
divide what would have been
rabbits and churches prey.
Will and Frank Realty
thank their lucky Darwin
for their success and the slow
sand irritating the oyster prophets.
The choir has its pecking order
and nesting protocol also.
Afterlife needs no court
worming around estates.
The pigeons beaten, molested,
or neglected when children
can go to hell.
The bubble birds celebrate
Aaahh - men.
The Eagle’s Song
The pecking order of boys
that recruits corporations
embalms the retired golfer
in high school. What may
have molted from men in the competitive classes
fills them with questions unasked. Obese
with boredom’s lack of wonder,
the old bird sought the coop
of assigned seating and barnyard placement exams.
The chickens perch
on social convention’s flight plan away
from the fox of individual thought: flocks
squawk and flap, never to feast alone.
As the sky of protocol falls around
the apprentices’ eyes and ears,
they splash cups of adrenaline
in each other’s face around the water fountain.
At the same time, the rhythm of the humdrum
finds their hearts. With no clue
that the hunter and taxidermist came
into their lives and mounted their horizons,
the fowl of folly shoot birdies, having long
missed the hawk of each breath inhaled.
Phew and Fewer Complaints
Protesters relieve the politician.
The excuse against duty dances
round an issue so that everyone
can go home where TV cameras
roll through the ballgame.
The fetish for like-minded signs
and cardiovascular exercise
puts aside injustice for a while.
An empty box sits in a closet
visited by hungry women and children.
Consciences clear with coughs or sneezes.
The rituals for more than mercy
mark the place for change
if sidewalk solidarity
could take eyes off the picketing.
A tweak or duct tape and paradise
arrives in golf carts and dialysis
for the obsessed but distracted spectators.
The declining member numbers
organize the social party
that shakes fists with dice in them
in casinos and rouse the manager
from his rounds. But when guilt
begins a movement, the tribe gathers
to unfix a fixation ceremony.
Lawmakers lean out windows
to taunt for longer purification.
Credits include the 2008 Gival Press Poetry Award for my book-length manuscript “Voyeur;” a first book The Apple in the Monkey Tree; chapbooks Great Grandfather, Family Secret, Hunting and Pecking, and Phoems for Mobile Vices, Rescue Lines; poems in Rolling Stone, Poetry, Grand Street, Trespass, Tryst, The View from Here, New Letters, Pank, Segue, Big Bridge, EOAGH, Fact-Simile, foam:e, and Confrontation; and essays in The International Journal of the Humanities, Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning, Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetics Poetry / Literature and Culture, Fringe, and Journal of Ecocriticism. Derek Walcott has remarked for the cover of my book Voyeur: “Mr. Murphy is a very careful craftsman in his work, a patient and testing intelligence, one of those writers who knows precisely what he wants his style to achieve. His poetry is quiet but packed, carefully wrought, not surrealistically wild, and its range not limited but deliberately narrow. It takes aim.” I live in Marblehead, MA and teach writing at VCU.