Nancy Murphy / Writer

writings and performances by Nancy Murphy

A Piece of the Calm


(after Mark Strand, “A Piece of the Storm”)

From the California sky, silver sun slides into the kitchen
between the slats in the window shades. It taps on the table,
not impatiently. It doesn’t wait for me to notice, it is beyond
needing things like that from the world. I am reading the news
of the day, weeping, sipping breakfast tea from the other side
of the world, English tea is really from Assam, Ceylon,
Darjeeling. How I miss the mystery of the old names.
Sunlight tiptoes closer. I suddenly feel watched, look up,
light upon fuzzy headed treetops in the yard waltzing
with the glimmering from above. Doves are fluttering
their adoration for each other. I pour from the half full teapot.


 Blue Heron Review, Issue 15, Fall 2022


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Dimming


Let me tell you about leaving,
how it was almost
easy. Sometimes a mandarin
is so ripe that its skin wants
to be peeled, falls away
as your fingers get close,
pockets of air under the surface

waiting for release. I was ready
like that, open to other
hands, mouths, scents.
I feared being skipped over,
not picked in time. Frostbite.
At first it was a long December
then it was spring

in my step, everyone noticed.
Still I buried a guilt that
I could have done better,
that I had no right
to ripen. I had a secret
tally of faults that I used
against myself like a rainstorm.
I made judges out of accidental
men, took punishment
hungrily.xxxxxxxxxxUntil

it was enough. Only then
could I let myself look
back, see how smugly
we walked the streets
of Philadelphia, rapt,
wrapped around each other.
Then baby daughter
mornings in the corner
condo, LA beach sun
streaming in, smells
of talcum. Remember,
I said almost. We were once
a light, he and I.
What did we know
then of dimming?


 SWWIM Every Day, September 19, 2022 


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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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