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Arch on a Rung

I’m adamant my asthma is NOT
caused by my mother’s asylums.
Come on. I’m as bored of mom’s suicides

as she is of my attacks. When she runs
a hot bath I can’t tell whose skin she’s
trying to burn. She won’t believe me,

but her pills aren’t the problem.
It’s when she abandons me in an ocean
view room and I look out onto les galets,

when I see the yellow galaxy of umbrellas
along the Promenade des Anglais, when I
smell her ashtray overflowing on the table

de chevet, when I guess she’s eating croque
madame alone at a café. That, or urinating
in a fountain and I know I’ll get the call, then

I’ll ring my father in Ohio and hear the creak
of his chair as he yells into the basement for
my brother, who is so heavy we are counting

the days until he breaks through the slats.
I ought to be ashamed. Instead, I take one step,
lowering myself down the ladder she left me.


Edison’s Medicine

How many blue volts before
Mom’s in a better mood?

This time she took her tea
cups: Limoges, porcelain,

flecked with real gold! Her will
written in stark block letters

on yellow accountant’s paper.
Zap! Her father’s clarinet.

Zap! Her puppy Tar, black paws
folded over the Buick’s back seat.

Zap! That night when my
father climbed a tree, sang

I know a place where the music
is fine, and did he? Did he?

They would have given us
absolutely anything

they didn’t want.  


Patricia Murphy teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where she is the founding editor of the literary magazine Superstition Review. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, and The American Poetry Review, and most recently in North American Review, Smartish Pace, Burnside Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, Hobart, decomP, Midway Journal, Armchair/Shotgun, and Natural Bridge.