width=61 height=87> Voracious Verses



John Thomas Murphy

West African Morphology

When the green camel
dips its milk-teeth into the stream
and fish eyes bug,
befuddlement: the only explanation.

She plops her hump upon
a shredded, leggy log,
hunches her neck,
and hides inside the brush.

She's tranquil and cool, cool
as a tortoise; she is as strong 
and hushed as echoes from the dead.
She falls asleep,

then wakes, thinking
about change: its habit of shaping
its way of clouding
new spots, new bodies.

She quivers, and her bones
brittle down to powder. 
It's the story of a newfound volta. 
She calls to the Sahara crowd: "So long!"

She's reached the height of ripped thought. 
That's why the camel coils into a snake
and sheds its limbs.  While moss sleeps, 
the snake slips through hungry grass.

 2008 John Thomas Murphy



If mythology were water, 
poetry'd be the sponge, 
each wipe a question, 
each answer the air beyond a fingernail. 

Could Daedalus have built a tighter coffin? 
Could he blame giddy Icarus 
for trying to clip his puppet strings? 

Rash youth.  Now fish chow, like 
a Mafioso snitch after a left 
into the wrong alley, four .22's at his head, 
his own cross to bear. 

Under the MSNBC News, a scroll 
retold the tale of a giraffe, dead 
after he shoveled his neck 
through two tines of a zoo fence. 
Not many cages in the African wild. 

Even each day begins with that twang 
of terror, a clock so startling its own 
name starts with alarm. 

Is life a maze?  Tell me, D. 
Time has that permanent ink: 
no erasers here. 

Mr. Daedalus, you genius, you idiot 
savant.  You could've rigged those wings 
better.  Were you never a child, you wretch? 

Ickey's body, right now, chewed, in and out, 
his intestines a tunnel for baby minnows, 
spirits unaware of myth, harm, or defects, 
just trying to live, viewing life with raw eyes. 


Think about photos, all the say-cheese's, 
each flash a mini-nirvana.  See: flash. 
Then, smiles sag like branches heavy with pulp 
or like spines curved from days, 
long after Joe Troll gets evicted 
from under the bridge.  Life's a capsule within 
(four digits, hyphen, four digits). 
When we open it and muse, 
we discover that life spawns myth, 
and myth hovers, itself 
a phantom with no care for walls. 

 2008 John Thomas Murphy

About the Poet:

John Thomas Murphy is a tenth-grade English and Creative Writing teacher living in White Plains, NY. Before moving to Westchester County, he lived in Troy, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, and Philadelphia, where he earned his graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been featured in The Cortland Review, The Chronogram , JMWW, Urban Graffiti, The Poet's Cut, Promise , whitelephant, The Great Kills Review, Kota Press, and Evermore Books, among other publications. He has also contributed an essay to the online project, Ruminations on America. As an undergraduate at New Paltz, he won the Tomaselli Creative Writing Award. Mr. Murphy is currently seeking a publisher for his novel, Pigtown.