Poetry from Mark Murphy

The Involuntary Side of Living

No! A woman is not property. A woman is a human being.

And as such, she cannot be held by anyone! [1]


Eleanor, you must wake up before the past cheats us

and the sand runs out

on your chloroform dreams.

The end of the world is only a stone throw away

and already we are lost

in the bloodline of kings.

No use to repudiate sorrow, or nuance of suspicion

the past is always within us

like the creation of the night.

The most human part of who we are is in the wood

and nails of our undoing –

            thanks-given and mercy shown

beyond the sea of bones like shadows orbiting a star

or waves breaking in the open sea.


Eleanor, can you hear us through the fog of anesthesia?

Are you still dreaming

the dream other people dream?

We do not speak of what is yours, we speak with our tears

of what’s already dead –

the lover within bargaining

with the lover without,

suspending all sense of disbelief to keep the lid on the broth.

Do not give thought to the hand and glove of your despair.

We shall not speak his name

here anymore.

We speak with our fists of the Cause you fought all your life.

The only question that lingers

is uncertainty

in the unforgiving air.

The rain has become a deluge. The dialectic but a ghost.

The proletariat all but fiction.


Eleanor, Eleanor… Get off your knees. The most human part

of who we are is locked

in what we do for others

between your father’s shadow – and your mother’s utter devotion

to everything but herself.

We know that the bit part

was never enough, but the silence you kept cannot save you

or your father’s memory

from phony biographers

and ill-tempered footnotes.

Here’s the room with all your prayers. Open the door and you

will find us waiting

like an expectant lover

compelled by the music of struggle in your eyes, swallows

emerging from your breasts –

waiting as if you had never left.

Au Courant

The sexual embrace can only be compared

with music and with prayer. –

Havelock Ellis

She might’ve said, ‘choose your pleasure well,

the world is a dance of scarves,

a one-way ticket

into the twilight –

a sexual field day for the mind

where the midnight carousel seesaws to the music

of love.’


He might’ve said in his seductive French accent,

‘choose between titillate

and intoxicate

and say goodbye

to loneliness, for tonight

our bodies will taste the secrets of our undoing.’


And with that man and woman fell together –

complicit in sensation

and cognition

like a blushing amaryllis,

more animated with every kiss,

every thrust of the hip, until bond and bondage

to the soul of each – grounded each in the roar

of rapture.


The night is running out of hours

to hide in

as the sober mind sifts the dust

thrown up by high desert winds.

And though desolation

and dust is not the whole story

of how we found you –

love alone does not break a heart

nor presume guilt where none is needed.

Once upon a time there was a king

so silly so grand –

we might hardly know he existed

save the mocking hand.

Once upon a time the days

were enemies

conferring misery upon the sands.

Now the sober mind confers poise –

proof of love in place of ruination.


The stars in her eyes betray nothing

of her fascination with Edward

Nonetheless even C19 women

are drawn to sedition and seduction

The forbidden fruit of bourgeois life

as if we needed reminding

What can be said to the errant dreamer

mooning at the munificent wit

Hard to dismiss the gifted orator

The roaring voice of the euphonium

Hard for any man to cry into his cups

Still we look on in disbelief

shrugging our shoulders

and scratching our collective head

Fenian Uprising, 1867

Glory O, Glory O, to the bold Fenian men.

Peadar Ó Cearnaígh


Always one for the under-dog

our little gymnast


with her new-found

affectation, her lionhearted


for the Irish cause

despite the ragging from her father.


One cannot help but weep

merciful tears

at the conspicuous injustices

endured by the Manchester Martyrs

at the hands

of the English law courts.


So thought Tussy Marx,

‘the Poor-Neglected-Nation’

as she was now

sardonically called –

tumbling and leaping her way

into adolescence.

Not yet fourteen but already

a trenchant Fenian,

devotee of the Irishman

chanting rebel songs

as if invoking Home Rule

between her acrobatics

and swinging on the garden swing,

she now signs off

her letters to Lizzy Burns

(her devoted auntie and new love

of the General) as ‘Eleanor, F. S.’ [2]


Suffice it to say, cartwheeling,

handstands, headstands

and forward rolling

were always more up Tussy’s street

than the upright

deportment and decorum expected

of the gypsy-spirited girl

at her South Hampstead College

for young ladies. A school

to which she never returned after

the abortive revolt of ‘67

and her very real Fenian awakening.

[1] From the play: Miss Marx: The Involuntary Side Effect of Living by Philip Dawkins

[2] F. S. = Fenian Sister

Mark A. Murphy is the editor of online journal, POETiCA REViEW. His poetry has appeared in over 250 magazines in print and online. He is the author of 6 full-length collections including The Ontological Constant due out in June, 2020 in a bi-lingual German/English edition from Moloko Print in Germany.

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