Volume 9 (Spring 2015)

Peter E. Murphy is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University which offers programs for poets, writers and teachers in the U.S. and abroad.

On Libations:

"Water, water everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink..."


Peter E .Murphy


   well rounded

your skull at first

as soft as marrow

coursing the currents

of the birth canal

which squeezes

you between

its soft walls

toward light

and drops you

into a stiff desk

bolted to the wood

floor by a catechism

of wimples and robes

which darken

the gleam that tries

to fill your head

so that nothing

anyone tells you

after that nothing

can  make you

not question it.


half the fun

is dallying

at the intersection

of bus a and bus b

getting off one

and not on the other

until the skinny hand

of the clock slaps

the last minute

the way the history

teacher slaps your face

when you arrive

too late to recross

the river that flows

from his lecture notes.

how that lesson

repeats itself,

demanding you keep

those barbarians

away as you figure out

how to beat them back.


you are its

diligent follower

who believes everything

it teaches is smart

literally a disciple

whose hands

are stigmatized

by what they refuse

to reach for.

the more your palms

bleed, the less they feel

the more brittle

becomes the skull

pedestaled upon

your neck

so when you

finally stretch

you crack so bad

all the king’s

losses are not able

to make amends.


in language

it is a sentence

hanging  above you.

in math numbers

that refuse to negate

themselves until

you reduce eternity

to a few scratches

on white lined paper

the slippery shell

of the fountain

pen splots your loose

leaves with blueblack ink

as you compose

the themes of the rest

of your life

the sharp blade

of the deadline

free falling toward

the rigid skin

on the back of your neck.


most of it you get

after you leave

books and bricks

so when you’re

finally tested

nothing you

studied does

you any good.

you’re smart

because you learned

to cheat on every exam

you take, invent

stories to explain

the classes you cut.

now that your ass

is on the line

the only correct

answer is the one

that gets the job

done fast, done right

and under budget.