Where The Unborn Are Concerned
Difficult enough to be born into any world,
Let alone between piss and shit
And the daily wipe of our bums –
Though that Jesus, that Apuleius knew
The Ass as faithful beast of burden
In the carry of our mortal yearning
Past the postern gate and through
Into every Elysium, Old and New Jerusalem
Where it takes actual work to be a ghost.
Especially when we are told
Over and over, as if we should forget,
It’s the thought that counts
That separates us from the herd –
The animal self we both praise and loathe,
“Lived by powers we pretend to understand.”
Which is all the more amazing when
We hear from the programmatic
The moment of inception made disease,
Incarnation the beginning of a metastasis,
The unwanted spread of out-of-control-cells,
Leading to another mouth to feed.
The I AM as much as the YOU ARE
Stillborn in the womb –
Never to be returned to the Body
As midwife in the birth of the True –
Or, when it comes to it, gain the Necessary
Error of our ways: no instar to instar
That like stepping-stones appears
As Mohammed’s mountain called,
Or as fiery letters, fiery shards,
Out of the slumbering mass.
Imagination’s appetitions stirred
To neither rise nor fall –
Reduced to matters of fact.
If not as You or I,
Who will teach the gods their ABCs?
How will they learn to spell,
Give sentence to, or fully bring to term:
No chance for fate as luck would have it,
But always the right to choose?
Shelter In Place
We have been here
Since the Word came down,
As if from the moment the World began –
We have forgotten so much.
“Shelter in place!”
Not knowing whether
A command, a warning, or a plea –
Come out of the blue,
A voice, in faith, we could not refuse:
“Shelter in place!” we hear and we obey,
“Shelter in place!” Depend on it,
What else is a body to do?
And still we are waiting
To be told what it is at the edge of our lives
That shadows us –
What it is that keeps us so at bay.
“Shelter in place!” Shelter in place!”
Neither knowing how it came to be,
Nor how it must surely end.
We do what we can to pass the time of day.
Some tell stories, others joke,
The more guarded listen and look.
Of the unaccountable, no one will say.
Most try, just as they had before, to work and eat,
Drink in that abide,
And from what store they have
In the face of it we do the best we can:
The children unconcernedly play.
Some sleep a bit and dream.
Others think and think on what it all should mean . . .
And not a few, after all is said and done,
Having been so provisioned,
How to make it home.
Robert Murphy’s work has appeared in the literary periodicals Smartish-Pace, The Colorado Review, Notre Dame Review, Cultural Society, Marsh Hawk Review, Beans and Rice, LVNG, and the Annals of Scholarship. He is the author of a chapbook, Not For You Alone (2004), Life In the Ordovician - Selected Poems (2007), and From Be-hind The Blind (2013) - all published by Dos Madres Press. He is a 2000 winner of the William Bronk Foundation prize for poetry. Robert Murphy is executive editor and publisher of Dos Madres Press. He is married to the iconographer and painter Elizabeth Hughes Murphy, who is both book designer and illustrator for Dos Madres Press.