Robert Murphy

Fellow Travelers

You hear them who are unheard,
Oars dipping and rising, dripping
With the watery rhythms of each fey heart.
And almost as if they could be seen
From a distance, eyes fixed on that horizon
To which there is no beyond.
Might be a windup toy mechanical,
Intractable centipede on the move
Across an enormous polished floor.
And pulling as one body against the encompassing
Of that insoluble, unconsolable sea,
Which is as smooth as glass,
And, here, for our purposes, like a mirror
In which the sun appears reflected.
The same sun that looked upon that boy
Carried as far and high
As longing might take him.
And where again and again he rises to his fall.
The rowers slip through the molten sheen
Which quickly freezes behind them as they pass.
A wound that soon as made, closes,
And all in the midst of it frozen fast.
The urge that captains necessity crews,
Unmoved, sails on in silence.
In the spell-bind of their sentence,
Bending to their work; the heat coming off them
As the rank odor of creatures too long penned,
And shoulder to shoulder strain.
The piss and dung of their determined world,
They everywhere deny, spread beneath their tails.
Reenactment’s dead, as the living are when shackled.
At each wrist the mark of time.
Become the ghosts they have to be
In order to survive.  As you do now,
And as quickly unknowingly forget,
Paralyzed as in a dream.
The depths from which you struggle to cry out.
Though your dreams, your true familiars
Know you better than they know themselves,
Would whisper into each deaf ear.
Would shake you. Would startle you awake.
Would turn you inside out

To bring you back to life.

Robert Murphy is the author of Not For You Alone (2004), Life In the Ordovician - Selected Poems (2007), and From Behind The Blind (2013). He is a 2000 winner of the William Bronk Foundation prize for poetry, and editor and publisher of Dos Madres Press. He is married to the Elizabeth Hughes Murphy, who is both book designer and illustrator for Dos Madres Press.