Excerpts

Shoreline of the Heart, Having Lived and Crafting Wings

I hope the three sample poems from my first three collections below will give you a better understanding of the content of each book. Thanks for taking time to read these poems!

 
 
Shanti Arts, 2019

Shanti Arts, 2019

 
Kelsay Books, 2018

Kelsay Books, 2018

Celebration

And to celebrate it all,
why not let others harmonize with our voices; the moon
cease its trembling. 

With nothing left to remember or fulfill, let our hearts
trim the ashes from their wounds. Let us revel;
shed our anger; reveal the lies
we once cherished. 

No hope needs to be guarded
when we draw the clarity of time
into our lungs. 

Let us convene
in the fullness of a childhood memory—
be it swaying meadow grass,
the surge of a whitecap,
or the scent of cedar. 

Let what must fall from our lips fall; what must rise
blaze within the certainty
of our words. 

© Joseph Murphy 2019

Appearances 

Our voices shimmer in the dreams
of a slumbering word; are a star-shaped map;
water under the keel
of a petal’s sigh. 

Beneath the mountain’s scree,
a sea swells through veins
of grass and weed. 

What is as it appears? 

Lies persist—pitch though an open door,
drunk and hoarse; maddened
by the world’s spin. 

They reach for my collar, my throat! 

But I’m rising from my wounds:
unquenched; restless;
wanting to shoulder more; to be
as persistent as the emptiness
within a brick, a stone. 

What is as it appears? 

Sails are made of loam; moonlight shines
from a root’s tongue. 

© Joseph Murphy 2019

Buddha’s Cloak

A wave breaks on pristine sand
glinting in the veins
of a wind-blown leaf; in the shimmer
of Buddha’s cloak. 

I balance that wave on the back of my hand; willfully,
without regret. 

The voices within the cloak rejoice; rooftops recede;
avenues vanish. 

Silence. Stillness. 

I begin to be freed of memories
that have chafed stem and leaf. A joy
resounds, creating
an immense shadow, cooling
my fragmented dreams. 

© Joseph Murphy 2019

8

The Convent

      - For Victor de Perez

A bed for them had been a narrow plank: for a pillow,
a piece of wood we’d stack by a fireplace.

I hoped the reward for such contrition had been sublime.

Their mummified remains stood in open coffins
leaned against a cellar wall. Dressed in coarse habits,
they had likely sewn, eternity for these nuns
included being displayed
to disbelievers.

We passed through quickly, in silence:
better to endure insult or loss
than hard truth at an arm’s length;
better, still, to stride a broad Mexico City street.

What a fine noise
rose from that bar we found,
where workdays ended; what a delight to laugh in that crowded,
smoky room.

© Joseph Murphy 2018

 

After a Fire at a Jewelry Store

That he had gone unnoticed seemed miraculous.

How much longer
could he poke among the ashes?

Where was that dream-sized jewel? His share.
Was it to remain imagined? One more hope
soon to burst, its shards
hollow as moonlight?

For that soot-covered man, better the hunt
than to linger in the square;
better to risk arrest
than to lack.

Better yet, and easier, by night
to scoop coins from a fountain,
taking what others had wished away.

But this was a singular chance.

Don’t we each harbor that greater end: a find t
hat can transform us?

So, more power to him! Let him pocket
his life-changing prize.

© Joseph Murphy 2018

 

Hull Down

 I preferred to swelter in the pilothouse,
than brave a flying bridge
at noon near the equator.

I’d pace away another watch:
binoculars lifted, lowered, lifted again;
strap weighing down
a soaked collar.

But that day another vessel
rode the horizon,
momentarily,
shape distorted by distance and heat.

I imagined myself on that ship
sighting ours:
as skewed by sky and wave;
as remote.

© Joseph Murphy 2018

 
Scars Publications, 2017

Scars Publications, 2017

Winter's End

 In that spring’s first true gleam,
lightening creased the walls
and thunder gathered the rarest of fragrances
into its mouth.

The water from my tipped bowl
spilled down a mountain the height of a weed;
the breeze
read aloud evening’s first page. 

It was then that rain rose from the soil
and a star descended
through the roots of these words.

The evening became brighter, quieter: 
no minute hand’s clatter broke through;
no wheel skidded past.

Time became nothing more or less than time.

I cast my lines ashore: sang as prow and sail burned, 
knowing my wounds would heal. 

Thoughts that had been tightly woven spun loose. 

That evening’s warmth lingered on my bare shoulders; 
the scent of damp loam sweetened the air. 

In that enormous space, 
our past seemed no more than a whisper
sensed at the edge of sleep.

© Joseph Murphy 2017

 

The Shape of New Words

Something new rises as the first rains enrich the soil: 
words, believed lost, well up
past freshly shaped leaves;

Missing verse ascends through the flowering brush. 

What was unfinished is ended; secrets
curl from the sky’s cuff, 
forming a lyric
sung by weed and stone.

Lost languages burst from a crisscross of roots; 
rising through the rain’s nib,
to be written on breeze and bark.

Voices that leap from a sea cliff’s clay
enter our throats,
and we begin to track
the orbit of their sounds. 

Forgotten pages appear in our hands. 

We begin to whisper rhymes
written by the dew; by salt spray
billowing from bees’ wings; by a gleam
reflected on a polished cup. 

Our mouths can now shape the newest of words. 

We need no longer pry them
from the fray of regretted lives; heal
their scorched hands; shelter them
in the well of our mingled blood. 

© Joseph Murphy 2017

 

 A Light That Clings

I wake in the half-world of our time, 
willing the whittle of my thoughts
into a wind-shaped mask. 

So much takes shape as I sift through these words. 

Here’s a once fallow wish
that’s taken root
on my tongue’s brim; a sprout
ascending through the sway of this line. 

Here’s a sweetness that won’t recede
as I press forward; the weave
of a well-felt moment
removing a shard from my torn cuff. 

Here’s the sea’s pitch and pull; the roiling
of winnowed dreams; a light that clings
to the nib of my thoughts. 

Nothing seems shallow; 
limiting. 

@ Joseph Murphy 2017