When the Thief Appears

jerky and twitched-out
two feet from my bed
I want to be
the woman
who throws
off the quilt, leaps
to my feet, yells
What the fuck?
startles him into a freeze

and this intruder
gets what’s his.
We’ll both learn
what rage looks like
after fear, spent
from a lifetime
of over-preparation,
has run out,
on might-have-been
disasters, some guy
at a bar I
sort of remember,
that misstep
on a wet trail
that could have
but failed
to break bone.

A Little Light

         O mother and father I prematurely grieved,
         where are you now that I need to lose you
                                     –Maggie Anderson
The daughters argue
when one begins
to clean. You are erasing
every last bit of him

the younger weeps, accusing
her sister of wiping away
signs and smells of the father
who cancelled visits,
let the phone go dead,
and lived
a long time
alone, inside the house.

I am making space the older one
with the spray bottle replies,
giving him the room
he would have wanted
to sort through those piles
of clipped articles,
until he found just the one
he had in mind, letting in
a little light, to


When Girls Were Girls
                                     for Nancy

We should have taken
bigger steps
made deeper ruts
written longer poems.
When we wept over our
glamorous betraying lovers
returned, as we knew
they would be,
to their wives, their desks
and afternoon naps
(we were only
the most recent betrayals)
you said we never really
wanted them, we wanted
their lives, their uninterrupted hours
at the desk, as the pages,
it seemed to us,
settled on their own,
into finished books.

We fit ourselves into
smaller and smaller places,
dressed in black
to be hardly seen. We
did not mean to take
up so little space. Yet,
even in that half-light
we saw a thin path. It branched.


Barbara Murphy
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