SCOTT MURPHY

  

In Lilac Time

I wrote a tune in lilac time—
half a tango, half a waltz,
half eccentric, half sublime.
Hear how it halts

between the beats?
Hear how lavender
like silences repeats
Spring's calendar?

Honesty requires I tell
you all who tried to dance it fell,
but in such smiling heaps
the music master keeps
a copy in his folio for times
when all are wild and nothing rhymes.


The Hungry Fisher's Tale


"From the time of Aristotle, it was commonly believed that swallows
dove into water in the fall, and slept under water all winter.
Fishermen claimed to bring up nets full of them. Fishwives counted
them diving into wells, a sign of a hard winter."


Gnaws the cold shore, does the sea, and mumbles
on the round rocks like the nubbins of its teeth spat out.
Old wives and alewives and our daft philosopher
make each their treaties with firelight and sleep
while sleet hisses on the cobbles of Pier Street,
while the moon unseen calls up the tide.

The oil-shod feet of giant men puncture the water.
Winter's swallows circle their ankles at a lightless depth
as in their dreams, this wife and that longbeard
stand at the margin of the ocean, stock still, and watch.
It is not the same as waking, and even ice-rimed, blue,
they stay and wait as if by waiting

they could call the swallows from the water, call them
into the air and sky, each swallow trailing a bit of weed
like string, some fragment of a nest, shards
of the mis-en-place of Spring. The sea yields nothing.
Nothing today, nothing tonight, so I tell my father and my wife
it all but swallowed the net, so heavy was it with the swimming birds,
but one by one, as I drew it ashore, they slipped the meshes

and resumed their winter homes, blind flights and searches
for the cold succor of the sea.