Michelle Murphy: Poetry

Words, poetry, prose poems, meanderings, wranglings, etc.

New Poem in The American Journal Of Poetry

Honored to be included among many fine writers in The American Journal of Poetry. Check it out here:


New Poem on Barzakh: Issue 8

My piece, There/Enough is in Barzakh’s latest issue. Here’s the link:

Relativity Once Removed

Clock him, my father tells my brother. He stands at the corner of parable and history with his cut-and-paste prayer, his lonely hieroglyphs. He carries a backpack filled with letters he’ll never finish. When he gets to the ocean, he turns his back on us.


On the strip, gamblers wait for daybreak and over-easy eggs, rib-eyes the size of almanacs. Hunger is mutable even as we try to measure its length, the paydays blown in one full scoop. Days where complex maneuvers fail to recover. Somewhere my brothers swim, synchronized, poised in kinetic variables (that follow the sun).


If it’s true that we play dice with the universe, then is God a reckless metaphor, a mathematical equation composed of stars, black holes, peripheral blood flow? Did you clock him, my father asks. My brother’s found another way around the equation, a way to climb into distance without actually leaving.


Here is my mother, straddling a line between faith and desertion, abandoning plans even as she unfolds a map. Restraint has failed her and it’s a relief. She adapts the story, adjusts the oxygen, watches as my brothers’ dive into the deep end, their arms held over their heads in makeshift steeples.

Crash Site

It’s hard to watch birds

scribble past margins, fly past fingers

If we could dive into such deep skies

& still not drown.

Lure the heart where we run aground.

Shipwrecked. Stilled.

Breath branched waiting to be pulled to shore

we’ll backstroke if we have to.

Anchored to such undeclared depths

you are not asleep yet

burrowed in syllables

lent by ghosts recruiting you

to walk on water.

Ripped up by our world’s sad stories.

It’s too early in the day to talk of death.

Our coffee not cold and too early for a beer.

Deserted in this blur–

this island of unsettled sentences

love’s carved us for better and worse

we’d like to think we understand a thing or two.

Crows in the garden shimmer like grease.

Black splats on my Rorschach heart.

You shudder in the heat, flanked by nurses

and mumblings in waters so deep

unmoored loss.

The length of one minute is approximately the same.

Now you see it.

Now you don’t.

No matter what your map says

topology doesn’t account for breadth, lash.

Our bodies work hard in such terrains.

This is how we lean forward

stoking memory for filaments. This is how we move.

After a Long Break

I’m back to writing on my blog. It’s been a long time and so many things have changed, as has my writing (once again). After a long time of wrangling and wringing my hands, I thought I’d try it out again. It’s a way for me to trace the trails and vestiges of language, the tweaks, and rewrites piling up on top of each other.

I’ve moved, again, this time to Reno, Nevada where I live downtown and look out at the cityscape and the Truckee River. It’s good to be by water. So, greetings from the “The Biggest Little City in the World.”Reno, The biggest Little City in the World, poetry blog,


It is early still. Conversations
occur in plain sight, then
retreat into whispered rooms,
into cupped heads and hands.

A nursery rhyme of dementia
a chain of loss
“Red egg, red red head where is bed what she said.”

& there’s our lives
verging on the brain, coaxing memory from its wooly coat
bright polaroids in summer motion,
this mother tongue.

Past-perfect sentences full of street & moon
a bright hope we can’t endure.

We keep fishing for words
in sensible shoes. Keep pulling them
from dusk.

I’ve come to fix your hair, to pry,
watch your hands conduct birds across the walls.

In this feathered light,
its ragged form leans against the window’s pane,
taunting the hours to move.

Vagrant sway of our hips
a sudden stretch of hallelujah
or fury worn to a blur.

Sometimes we cave.
Crawl the bars
until one of us is numb
& there is nothing left
to spend.

Rafael, if you would
protect the dreamer from her dreams,
Settle disturbances,debt
is all we ask tonight.


Caught Up

We are public
engineered to waste affection
shuttle words from one room
to another

Turn the lights off
scribbled across the car’s dash in bright chalk
a proposal to keep the battery alive

There’s no need to mention
the shoulder’s hunch juxtaposed with
this prom-dress memory.
Miles of disturbances logged in
snatched up in sea salt & fog.

Take this sofa, for instance,
it was new before we moved
made it less than urban
trolled by books and windows.
Duct taped its arms.

Without taking love
into account, we play dead for seasons
hunker under layers of garbled guitars,
wait for some sign of signs.

We know the roads here now
or at least driven a few.
Yet there’s still talk of packing up,
salvaging the bulbs

Bound in lapses,
past-perfect photographs
and entire operas churn below the surface
into short-circuit Novembers
where your body might be safe
to conduct its own
caught up in air.

Get Lit at the Vin Club in San Francisco


Where I Left My Heart

Today, in honor of Tony Bennett’s 50th anniversary recording of the classic love song to the city of San Francisco, all San Francisco radio stations will play “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” beginning at noon.

The song will be piped over public address systems throughout the city; sing the song from wherever you are

KOIT 96.5FM, KALW 91.7 FM, or KDFC are just a few of the stations that will be broadcasting the song.  If you love San Francisco join me.

Here are the lyrics:
“I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome is of another day
I’ve been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan
I’m going home to my city by the Bay

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care

My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden sun will shine for me

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