Word Poetry

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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Erin Murphy


Taxonomy of Gender

A father-to-be aims a rifle
at an explosive target to see
if he's having a boy or a girl.
47,000 acres scorched. 8 million
dollars. And the damage you
cannot see. Every time you say
slaughter, I hear daughter.



Taxonomy of Things That Slide

Girl on the playground,
the steel mirror-polished
by the seat of her pants.
Houses after pummeling rains.
Tears. Unwelcome words
about your breasts from men
you pass on the street. Years.




Taxonomy of Smiles

Ambiguity tugging the seams of Mona Lisa's lips.
Helen of Troy, for surely it wasn't a scowl
that launched a thousand ships. Smile more, say men,
always men. But my mouth's default is a grin.
Classic American smile, proclaims my dentist.
What does he mean? Unrestrained? Too much? Larger
than life? When he says open wider, I want to bite.



Taxonomy of Silence

Middle of the night stillness. Crisco-thick air
between us after a fight. Reading beside
each other. Ellipses... caesuras. The sign
language we taught our baby daughter, the way
she'd press the tips of her fingers together
to insist more long after she'd learned to talk,
as if she understood the power in holding back.




Taxonomy of Google Autocomplete: What's the Difference

What's the difference between jelly and jam,
between club soda and seltzer, between
a modem and a router? What's the difference
between llamas and alpacas, mildew and mold,
salamanders and newts? What's the difference
between a passport and visa, brown eggs
and white, stars and planets, me and you?




Taxonomy of Venom

Two girls Hula-hooping on the back patio
when a pair of young copperheads comes along.
My father raising the shovel above each one,
then waiting for the mother. The clang of metal
on stone. The blood. The bodies tossed in weeds.
My friend, barefoot and stunned. My father's own
sharp tongue that stings long after he leaves.