In 1917, a woman walked onstage,
opened her blouse, and rose balloons flew out.
Here, noon-lit corner lot,
a plastic fence holds back
the heavies, squirrel in deep dahlias.
Fall's dark horse at the feedbin,
trees leave red bets to show.
Pickle City. Pitbull
and the Taiwanese panties.
It's the pull of the regular;
sheepshank, Celtic Pride,
returning to tea in the country
with Sarah, Stan ranting about
the big trout trapped in the brook.
Either way, neither got out.
Either way, table, chairs, VCR to program.
Clear needs, uncurdled. Yes and yes sir.
Now the bees buzz down.
Now the long empty and the desert train.
Like me the stars stop talking
when they think someone's listening.
Like me they flicker and fail.
Until there's fire danger.
Until we make amends.
To say this afternoon is slow
is to say we spin in its groove
and awake in ways sprawled,
some still stuck in the center,
holes in their middles,
fists around what's left of the dark
as if it had a clue.
So much in hands. She said mine
were animated and I thought
that meant planned, frame by frame.
I moved through, a shadow in her beam.
The now sun settles in its slant,
squirrel off with a nut in mind.
Somewhere there's perfect sand.
Somewhere a plastic flute.
Above all, the sky's caul whispers
believe me I'll be here.
When asked, I'm ship-shape.
You're with me. We're on
an idea of sea, but waves
know shadows know nothing,
and the latch clicks, horn
sounds as we lift and drift,
while at the helm
the brain's at the wheel
and won't let go no matter how many docks we take out.
Someday I'll stop faking sense.
Someday the theater will forget
where it's at and will just be there,
where the roads meet and the stoplight swings.
The stain and sweep of it,
spreading like hunger's buzz.
It's hard to start
but easy to end with what fits,
the what-is landing in a push cart
hemmed-in by the melon man,
a horse's tail,
It's not the sport that keeps me going.
It's the chance to lean close and touch the tremor.
After ever comes the period
of intense rebuilding;
the Chance Ambassador
praying for a Fort Bragg turkey.
Today the lucid moon.
Everything J says sounds stolen,
which is to say she's human.
Trying will get you loaded.
Trying will take your keys
and drive you into the ditch.
There's reliable ice
and all kinds of fire
at the edge of town
where kids live in basements
and the houses are dimly lit.
At night you can see only so far.
Still no one knows the wattage of what.
Michael David Murphy has an MFA from the University of Washington.† His work has appeared in Wired, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and Zymurgy.