Erin Murphy


An artist friend traded
                    detailed scenes of farms

and streams for small fields
                    of color during quarantine.

Rothko Postcards, he calls
                    these gestures of sky and wheat.

My late mother-in-law
                    once confessed to me

she’d had a near affair
                    when my husband was young.

The man, also married,
                    was superintendent of schools.

We were this close, she said,
                    squeezing between her fingers

an invisible precious stone.
                    She sat with him in the front seat

of her blue Buick in the board of ed
                    parking lot to say she was choosing

her current life—
                    then drove home to dress

the dinner salad with oil and vinegar
                    the way I’d see her do decades later,

quick flicks of her wrists
                    like brushstrokes in the kitchen air.

Square of green, square of blue.
                    Square of orange, square of red.

Representational, abstract. Sunrise.
                    Sunset. Hard dash of the horizon—

below/above, after/before—
                    the independent clause of regret.



Erin Murphy’s latest book of poems, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as The Normal School, Guesthouse, Southern Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, North American Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. Her awards include The Normal School Poetry Prize judged by Nick Flynn, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net award judged by Patricia Smith. She is editor of three anthologies from the University of Nebraska Press and SUNY Press and serves as Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State Altoona.