Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Erin Murphy


Dear Fringe


Jangle on a flapper
girl's dress, yes, but also

her bangs and lashes.
Grass in the pasture

not yet grazed or flattened.
Shop talk, small talk.

Ropy belly fur
on a river-loving dog.

A marginal student's
marginal doodles. Tears.

The line of plastic caps
my grandmother twisted

onto toothpaste tubes
for forty hours a week

and forty years.
The receiving line:

handshake, handshake,
handshake, kiss. This.



The Boy Who Couldn't See Stars


Even with the strongest glasses
he saw nothing in the night sky
but a clich'e of blackness.

He understood the concept of stars:
hundreds of white Christmas lights,
a galaxy of tiny oncoming cars.

The boy was not a boy but a man-
you: a five o'clock shadow, a shrug.
And the stars were not stars but love.



Recipe, 104 A.D.


Add water to bamboo
and the inner bark

of a mulberry tree.
Pound the loose paste

with a mallet and let it
seep through a woven

cloth the way a chef
strains spices with mesh.

Next, stretch your body
in the sun beside the fibers

as they dry, fanned by
flittering birds. Roll over

like a lover, imprinting
yourself on the first

sheet of paper, light as
breath, heavy as words.




Rock, Paper, Man


Scissors cut paper.
Paper obscures rock.
Rock smashes scissors.

Man smashes glass.
Glass obscures words.
Words cut man.




Eleven to Seven


At midnight her work was just beginning:
churn of conveyor belt, grind and crank

of body and machine. That last year
she stood on the gel mat I sent for Christmas,
its rubber taffy cushioning her joints until

she stepped out into the blinking dawn.
Third shift, blurred rift

between black and white. So many ways
to block out light: curtains, masks, pills.

So many bills. Even on days off,
at midnight her work was just beginning.

She stepped out into the blinking dawn,
ferrying my mother to school, then returning
to fold and starch the clothes

she'd hung under watchful stars, pinning
hopes not on her own future but on ours.