Wednesday 20 April 2016

4 Poems by John Murphy


He loves the way when her hair is up
wispy strands float out from her neck
and the velvet contours of her upper
arms mould into the shoulders
and she rests the side of her head
on her palm and says yes,
I’d like a cup of tea and throws
the cushion at him when he says
I would too. He loves the way when
late for work she pecks his cheek
and he sees the day’s challenge
in her eyes and he fades into
her background the sound of
scraping toast and meowing cat
as she hikes her jacket over
her shoulders and slams the door.
He loves the way when she returns
she flops on the sofa, pinches her nose
and gives him the news, who’s
screwing who and the idiot
in the BMW, such arsehole drivers
and the cat brings her back gently
into the house as it kneads her chest
and the kids drag her up to
help stick luminous stars
on their bedroom ceiling, lying
with them on the floor in the dark
looking up at the universe expanding
through transience into days, weeks, years. 


Apart from the pen, the hand holding it,
the nerves, tendons and muscles
moving with ancient electricity trickling
words that slip and slide, drop 

to the next line, survive crossings out
and hasty scribblings.
The pen’s imperfections chasing
images of sunlight through raindrops, 

exploding into colours on drooped
flower heads and glistening lawns,
giving words to life like perfume
drifting across a candle-lit table 

on a warm Mediterranean terrace.
Pictures waft up from the page
capturing the essence of love and hate
and the small leavings behind them: 

daubs and shadows, suggestions of sepia
and quiet, dusty gazebos of the mind
bursting with exotica.
I give them to this page, 

flowers bellowing colour, the smell of love
settling at last from slippery meanings.
Look carefully and you’ll see my child wavering
like a tightrope walker across the wet grass... 


It slicks through the air faster
than morality or forgiveness,
rents the keen slice of flesh
and bone in an instant
to a shatter of blood and shards.
Forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder,
signed on the body, the holy trinity
that cannot stop that furrowing
of borders or the sharp eye
of the refugee looking for peace
along the hill’s silhouette.
They enclose with shade and spillage.
Flesh and bone, he wobbles like jelly
on the end of a shovel. 

Tuesday was a yellow flash,
Sunday, white smoke flowers
blossomed on the hillside.
The woman with the smiling
eyes a kaleidoscope of red
tumbling flesh and skin.
Grey clouds spread
shadows over flowers
in graveyards,
a child who held a buttercup
under her best friend’s chin
became a casualty.
The earth is still flat.
We will all fall off the edge. 


Was it the blue paper she said he should buy
or was it the yellow? He squinted, focussed
on the squashed fly stain on the wall above his desk.
She seemed upset about something.
He leaned back in his chair, tapped his pen
along his teeth, moving his jaw,
making a popping sound. The door opened,
a woman walked in and sat on the chair opposite.
She placed her bag on the floor
next to the chair and unbuttoned
her blouse which she removed, folded
and placed on top of her bag.
She reached behind her and unclasped
her bra, shrugged it off and placed it on top
of the blouse. She sat back, looked at him.
What are you doing? he said. You are the doctor?
she said, her voice bland, unhurried. No, he said.
She leant forward, picked up her bra,
blouse, bag and stood. He stood.
They looked at each other, eye to eye.
Two rooms down, a light bulb fizzed,
flickered and popped into darkness. 


Surveying the crack in the wall
he steps back, confused, unsettled.
He’d plastered over a smaller crack
just yesterday and now it had spread.
He had noticed a slight rumble,
a momentary and faint alteration in
his daily background vibrations,
a slight attenuation of air over his skin.
He thought about the two men
sitting in the car outside since yesterday.
He wondered if they were still alive.
He could see, through the binoculars,
that they don’t move, hadn’t moved.
He knew it was all arranged,
things were in motion,
it’s now or never.
He stares at the crack.
His heart beats and beats. 


John Murphy is a retired lecturer and musician living in Surrey, UK. He has been published in many journals and magazines and is editor of The Lake , His book, The Thing Is... was published in 2009. 

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