diode v9n1




My mother, my father and Hitler walk into a bar
where I am the bartender. I’m not dead yet,
so they don’t recognize me. How about a Rheingold?
my father asks. I’ll have orange juice, says Hitler,
but Rheingold, how beautiful!

Next, Hitler turns to my mother, who’s still deciding
what she wants, If you were me, he asks,
what would you have done differently?
My mother, who lived through the Blitz,
doesn’t like to talk about it. Instead she asks,
Do you think I’m fat?
Mein Gott! Hitler complains. You English are pathetic.

Next, the sun spills in through the window, spreads itself
across the bar, sees Hitler and thinks, Jesus,
I thought they got rid of that guy, and slips out.

Next, a huge cockroach crawls out of a crack
in the wall, climbs on the stool next to my mother
and says, Hi Sweetie, do you come here often?
My mother blushes, thinks, At least it’s not Hitler.
The Fuhrer is furious, demands to use the phone.

Next, a pair of enormous eagles swoops in, salutes Hitler
and drags the roach out by the scruff of its...I’m not sure
what you call it. My mother begins to cry.
My father orders another beer.

Next, a humongous dragon spewing flames and hellfire
rips the front door off its hinges, knocks over chairs
and tables as it spreads its wings and shits bricks
of burning coal which are surprisingly aromatic.
Then it projectile vomits a stream of fiery phlegm
that vaporizes Hitler.

Next, my mother sees me for the first time and stops weeping.
You were born in the pit of this earth, she says,
which is why I named you Rock. 

Why have I always doubted where I’ve come from?
What does your name mean?
What have any of us ever done to deserve this life?

“What lies behind perfect love life, Peter Murphy”
                                                              ~from spam

My girlfriend says, I can think of a dozen ways to kill
myself if you don’t leave your wife. Then she says,
I can think of a hundred ways to kill you.
How did this happen?
We were happy, my girlfriend and me, holding hands
as we crossed the street from one year into the next
when it’s like a cab came hurtling out of the darkness.
I wanted to scream, I’m walking here, and bang my fist
on the yellow hood like Ratso Rizzo who never had
a girlfriend or a wife, who said, I don’t get no respect.
Or maybe that was Ed McMahon or some other fat guy
sitting on the leather couch, bullshitting this and bullshitting
that and making fun of New Jersey. Truth is, I don’t have
a girlfriend. I don’t have a wife. If I did, I’d settle into a suburb,
a development where we would age like cheese, like wine,
lying in bed, her arms around my shoulders, my legs
between her legs, trembling until it’s over, which it will be
soon enough. Honestly, I can barely walk myself
to the other side of Ninth Avenue without crying.
I’ll never dance like the granny rising out of her wheelchair,
lifting her cane and singing, When there’s music,
I don’t feel no pain. Even if Peter Pan were not named
after me and had grown up to keep the books in a silk factory
in Paterson, we all end up in Neverland.
My eyes are silver.
My eyes are stone.
My eyes turn away from eyes that try to look at them.
My name is Peter Murphy and this is my love life.
Truth is, I probably couldn’t love you even if you were perfect,
even if you were my wife.


Not That Complicated

How do you make sense of the things that want
to kill you? Like the tropical storm that ripped
through my neighborhood right before Halloween.
It was as if Global Warming rang the doorbell,
shouted Trick or Treat, and left a burning bag
of dog shit on my step. Low atmospheric pressure
sucked all the water in the back bay into its sling,
then shot it forward, knocking out my tongue
and groove wooden floor down to the slab, walls
to the studs. Same thing happened to my practical
friend even though she has fire on the brain.
Too bad she can’t let go, forget that someone burnt
down her house with her and her family inside.
Even after fifteen years it’s still killing her.
Of course she’s rebuilt, but she talks about giving
in to the smoke as if it’s something she has to decide
every day. As if the fire follows her home from work,
the grocery store, the gym. I’m not into disaster myself.
Horror films are horrible. And I don’t understand
the fascination with vampires and tattoos.
Not to mention zombies which I never mention, even
when someone asks. Nothing happens that shouldn’t,
my dharma friend said after we made love on her mink coat.
She’ll tell you that she’s on a personal journey
which is not a good sign, and you see right away
that her online profile that attracted you is a lie.
Still, I’ve slept on worse things than mink although
even lying next to her my dreams were cataclysmic—
barbed wire, sharp edges, nails scraping my flesh.
She doesn’t understand why I am afraid of trees.
From my bedroom window I see them burning
around my house. Their leaves brightly flaming,
scorching the air, sucking it out of my lungs.
Everything falls down—leaves burning or not, dust,
sunlight, houses, your mother—Gravity has attitude,
doesn’t give a damn that you or I may want to live.
It moves forward, like the flood waters rushing
down from the bay, or rises like smoke from the ashes
of a ruined house.  


Peter E. Murphy is the author of Stubborn Child (Jane Street Press, 2005), a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize, and four chapbooks. His unique poetry writing assignments have been collected in Challenges for the Delusional (Jane Street Press, 2012). His poetry and prose have appeared in The Common, Green Mountains Review, Guernica, The Journal, The Literary Review, The New Welsh Reader, Rattle, Rhino and elsewhere. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University, which sponsors the annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway and other programs for poets, writers and teachers in the U.S. and abroad.