Nancy Murphy / Writer

writings and performances by Nancy Murphy

How Isolation Is Like Summer


Remember the slow heaviness of August
in Albany,
the 60s, sixth grade
everything exhausting
from humidity,
excessive greenery suffocating,
days stretching in our hands like
the wonder of boardwalk
taffy that never breaks, it just gets thinner
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ and thinner‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎and thinner.
Remember when effort was pointless,
when summer kept us
low to the ground, sitting in the art
of doing nothing, tree filtered sunlight
moving across our freckled faces
as we spoke
quietly, like whispers might keep us
cooler.
Picture us young, self-contained, still
whole. Breathing the not knowing
of life like
it was our daily bread.


Oh the trouble with looking
for things, what you find.
This impossible brokenness of
motherlessness,
how that grief lies in wait for you,
coiled, attacks only in self
defense, no one wants
to be forgotten. Memory
is a mother.
Is all this time on our hands
keeping us safe
from ourselves?
Maybe we need
to reopen, I’m dreaming
of a long drive to the mountains,
any mountains.


 Aurora Poetry, Vol. 4, July 2022 


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Aftermath


After my mother died, I left my husband.  

He had always been a rock  


but I stumbled upon someone more  

like fire, and I needed to ignite,  


breathe into the blue edge of a flame,  

find myself in what remained.  


It’s Friday night, I slice into red peppers. 

My new man scorches them on the grill  


along with sweet corn, chicken in dried  

thyme, Spanish olive oil. Together  


ten years and I still call him new. 

This is just how I talk, tell myself I’m free,  


remind myself that I could be reduced to ashes  

again. Sometimes I’m afraid that only burning 


can purge this longing, for all that’s lost,  

for those careless nights and all that blazed.  


 Montana Mouthful, February 2022 


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Sometimes a Wild Saint


        After Tom Hiron, Sometimes a Wild God

Sometimes a wild saint will storm in while
            you’re at the stove
searing steaks,
            tapping smoked paprika
                        onto sweet potatoes. She’ll start

a fire in the blue room, open the best

Burgundy                    without asking,
crank up

the Stones. Sometimes a wild saint
is not exactly
            drunk, (but not undrunk)

maybe beyond

drunk like I was
in my twenties after work

in bars with married co-workers.
I’m not here to confess,            I’ll just say

I have seen how things can break

down, how anything can be
forgiven, how miracles are            not
that rare         really.

Sometimes a wild saint

is such a martyr, deadly
serious.           But I’m

not going to fall
into that deep

well of belief again, the longing
that follows, all that embarrassment
            when god doesn’t show up
                                    in time.

Sometimes a wild saint
will remind us that there will be summer

again, that I will be able to go underwater
            and feel cool on my entire head
                        and not even care
if my hair                      ever
            dries.


Gyroscope Review, Issue 21-3, Summer 2021


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Know My Tree

Know My Tree


A tree is a prayer without words, without reason, without apology. Yet
not without sound,        I hear

a low whirr when I am close to a willow,         I see the medicine of its
knowledge dance under dark

purple bark.      I trace the lines of its hands to the ends of the limbs I
want to climb,      watch

how leaves confetti in the breeze,        an explosion of spring greens and
saffron

yellows against an afternoon indigo sky.          I want
to       rest,        hang from my tail,

sleep and eat
like an animal.
I want to know
my animal. I want
to know my god.
I want to know
my       tree.

I need to be
washed in a rain
of forest, cleansed
of my faults,
my failings,
my falsities.
All the moments
I could have
done better.

We are all
standing under
some tree,
of life,           of death,
of transformation.
How thankless
I’ve been! I wish
to save a tree
to save myself
to save
the world.
I don’t know
where to start
so I will just
start with this
tree      under a black
sky       believing in the sun.


Telephone, April 2021


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