Four Poems — Kevin Murphy
SPARE TWO COINS FOR THE BOATMAN?
“I gave up a long time ago,
used to ask like those beggars you see over there
by the pick-up point. Even they know the answer
is always the same – whether direct, buried
in excuse or ignorance – and that it has to be:
No one gets burned with more than their fare.
I’ve seen the coinless who couldn’t stand
the wait and tried to swim across. I’m not sure
where it carries them, but it isn’t back
around for rescue. Not that the boatman would
bother to look. He hasn’t acknowledged me
for a long time. I spent years gathering these
rocks and twigs, clearing space to write
my question out so I wouldn’t have to ask
anymore. Now I sit and wait for the boat
to disappear across this vast river, far enough
so that the water over here calms and I can
catch a reflection of the living world – a blackness
to us only the water can pierce –
seen through the ground: soles
made of rubber, leather, plastic; foundations
of houses. And deeper into the river:
(at the right angle) bills of baseball caps,
and sometimes umbrellas when rain rises
from the sediment to ripple the surface. On days
like those I often catch myself having moved
down to the edge of the bank
trying to scoop a sip.”
we came for the sun
to capture how it rises
this morning it hides
a faint silhouette
fogged by grainy film its light
can only soften
though we did not come
to be poured through in this rain
cloud we cannot leave
mist beads soak into
my clothes my pores and i wait
for them to lift me
make me into drops
scatter me on mountainside
to steep its red soil
to feel how earth spins
how the sun pulls how the moon
is pulled our constants
to become constant
fleeting like rain like clouds here
living as weather
With a look that sits driftless in his eye
this stranger walks toward me as I sit
drifting with a look of lesser intent.
Panning his head to capture the entire
scene, he ponders every aspect
as if he’s the speaker of a poem:
how the wind drops a beat for the leaves
to groove to, the sound of rubber pressing
into and pushing off concrete, buildings
that frame and build tension with the trees.
A subject of his view, I wonder how
many stanzas he will devote to me.
He has distracted my detachment
and after he passes – still rolling –
he sustains a residual presence
in being absent.
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaDo I linger
as he does? The leaves quiet. The trees’
shadows shift. His walk, this scene,
no longer is yet it ghosts through
my memory like a photograph I’m in
but somehow did not know I’d posed.
(North Front St., Harrisburg, PA)
I don’t think buses even go down this
street and if they do, they certainly don’t
stop. Not for you. But you’re not here for a
bus. And you don’t have a meeting at the
Capitol; that’s not why you face it.
aaaHere early, dressed in the same gray
suit, white shirt, red tie, your fedora on
your briefcase next to you, your paper
open as the world comes back around:
aaaThe sun rises in your face, slowly
climbing over the city to find you and give
your bronze back its color. The
Susquehanna moves behind you, the lulls
and clusters of traffic before you all
headed the same way.
aaaWhatever the reason, you must be
ready to work. Are you not old enough to
retire? Maybe you were forced out and just
can’t let it go?
aaaIs it the want-ads you peruse today?
Everyday? Dress for the job you want,
aaaThere’s something else to it, though.
No weather too rough, no day too dark, no
noise too loud, you sit here unperturbed by
the world as though it isn’t there . . .
aaaNo. That’s not it. The world is too
there, you are too perturbed . . . alone all
day (sometimes others may stop for a rest)
reading that same paper.
aaaWhich is today’s.
Kevin Murphy’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Heron Tree, Gravel Magazine, 5×5, Cactus Heart, and other journals. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho. He currently resides in Asheville, NC with his person named Shannon.