Miguel Murphy is the author of Detainee and A Book Called Rats, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. He lives in Los Angeles where he teaches at Santa Monica College.
The Lying Philosopher
Once there was a tongue
in the night's green unseen—
Like the mind's
shining quintillions, leaves or
waves high in the eucalyptus.
Its song like a beautiful lie
you wanted to listen to—its singing
and loathing at once—pure philosophy. When he called
trying to convince me
we should undress one another to bare heat
and know our real selves risen
breathless, bestial, bodiless
I wanted to
turn my face from the world to
the moonlight to sleep
inside the tree—inside his seductive
pitch, demonic slur—his voice
of the mind's fatal green god, breath
persistent like waterfalling birdsong crying be with me—
I wanted to say no
to his sparkling in my ear, but oh—
if you've had love once
then you know how swiftly
the little waves fall down and kiss themselves. . .
Eric and the Orange Tree
And why not say yes
when you wake alone and the eucalyptus
shaking in the wind
and sun like a goat
shaking out the rain? Morning
drenched with Sunlight is a slaughterhouse.
covers the world's limbs and smokes. This
morning you're alone, close
to darkness, close to yourself
as a wet leaf is close to the sidewalk.
The sea pours out and out. Darkness pours in.
My bedroom feels like my heart.
Night pumps with it.
At least in a dream
things feel like what they are, hypnotic
velvet, and gold dust through the gaze.
And no one has to say
what symbols mean, or how to love them. Last night,
Eric handed me a wooden rabbit in Mexico.
He smiled and walked off into an alley
lit by an orange tree. Now I lie here
in pieces through the window's dioramic
shifting eucalyptus, where daylight is blinking—This
Summer wasn't as hot as this, the Santa Anas
blowing the fires on the hills—it's October
and a thin bad oxygen will kill all
small nephews in their sleep, with a blowtorch. Once
this was a house, now it's a pocket of ash.
if I die it will be alright. If I die
right here I'll love the oranges
glowing down the alley of my dream, and the walls
softening the darkness of the tall
alley where the Devil touched my hands
and smiled. And why not say
Yes, I'll be right there
to light his cigarette, while the blazes take and sizzle
alcohol, warm salt along the hills.
If only he'll be greedy while he can
before we really die, and forsake the rest—
It's not just me who's alone
while the fire trucks speed toward hell
into the blazes to breathe the black air
screaming like heart-mad Ophelias
choking down solitude. At night the entire world
is threatened to dream and love. The flesh
can smell It, What it will become. Burnt
leaves, bones, and bitter smoke
soaked in its last shreds, its coat-tails of skin.
Wake with me.
On his sweat and breath.
dark with hunger and surprise, hurry.
Hills, homes, names,
not even the Governor of this hateful state
can survive the latest campaign—
There is only Now, the rest is Now, Now
before our blood bakes
in the Canyons where we're trapped, in the Valleys
charred to a crisp
California, where the branches of willows and oaks
freeze like the forearms of burnt boys
clutching cold air. Sunlight
glistens like a black gape. Oh love,
hurry, even if the world is horror
it's not too late before
it ends, to touch your lips to mine.
Come back to bed.
In Meat, the Darkness is kind.
In the red heart, up to the very last second.