top of page

Issue 1.2

Fall 2021
1.2 DK_edited.jpg

Erin Murphy


In early March 2020, our adult son came home for a five-day spring break and stayed fifteen months. The university town where he is a graduate student was a COVID-19 hot spot, so it seemed safer for him to quarantine with us in rural Pennsylvania. My husband and I had been empty nesters for several years, and so—like many parents—we were thrust into navigating both the chaos of the pandemic and a return to a type of family life we’d assumed was over. It was an intense time, one that blurred the concepts of parent/child, past/present, interior/exterior, fear/control. My poems have always been associative and self-reflexive, but what I wrote during this period was more overtly so, with the poems themselves acknowledging that they are propelled by external influences. 

I Feel So Damned Intransitive

The way barley is forced to germinate,

                         then halted and dried


Malt: verb and noun [melt, moult,

                         if the Wicked

                         Witch had shrieked

I’m moulting, moulting!]. We all long

                         to slough off

                         [slog + laugh] these

extra fragments of fleece

                         and fat and sit 

in the cricket-thick night, glass

                         of gin dripping

                         with condensation

[or condescension, such

                         haughty hooch]. 
                         What was the name 

of Tom Cruise’s co-pilot in Top Gun?

                        Gooch? No, Goose—

                        the same actor

from ER whose character died 

                        of an inoperable 

                        tumor [opera]. 

The neurosurgeon who saved

                        my husband’s life

                        played Puccini 

in the OR. He looked twelve 

                        and wore Vans, 

                        as if he’d

skateboarded to the hospital

                        that morning,

                        his white coat 

trailing like a bride’s veil 

                        [Vail: snowy slopes].

                        In the game 

Climbing Grammar Mountain,

                        students ascend or fall

                        with each attempt 

to correct a sentence [unit of words,
                        length of a prison term].

                        Complete sentence.


Life sentence. Life is a sentence
                        is a sentence

                        we never learn.

Erin Murphy’s latest book, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Normal School, Diode, Southern Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is Professor of English at Penn State Altoona. Website: 

Erin's Book Recommendation 

The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Jeffers blurs the boundaries between past and present in these documentary poems, reminding us that history is, at its root, a story. 

bottom of page