“That's where the economic and political empowerment of the developing world--the ‘rise of the rest’ as I call it--comes in, . . . .” Fareed Zackaria
Pitched until the mantle collapsed,
the two trophies disappeared beneath
jet engines and 3000 bodies.
iPhones in hands, “Why me?”
stepped from taxi cabs in suits
and shoes that shine. In league,
the world without a New York City
suffered schadenfreude in the dark.
Team America cried foul, and alarmed
referees chased the remote control pilot
and the drones into caves. A decade
later, bronze testicles wreathing
Wall Street melted into tears
for the taxpayer robbed by bankers,
and Asia jumped the starter gun
when airlifted cash on pallets landed
a baton. A relay circles the Earth.
The rest that rises in steel
and glass sees nothing to learn;
the sun casts light just so.
Western State Penitentiary
Entering the prison yard
by way of the womb
and leaving only as the fertilizer
for another civilization, first
the inmate toddles the grounds,
He conquers his mother’s reach
and his father’s nature,
while planting his standard in the hands
of convicted murderers and rapists.
To ease his Atlas shoulders,
the natives prod him to where
the birds soar above a hut:
He has since flapped his arms
to the thought of freedom.
Leading his private expeditions
to death’s wall and to the curly locks
of the electrified mob,
he returns to the promises
iron balls deeded in the dust,
to the gates from which he came.
In the body salt on the grounds
beneath him, he tangles his feet
in longitude and latitude
so that he may eat where beyond
the topsoil traps for millennia
captured claws and paws.
Upon the mesh of rooted bones
he lumps himself, a stone
for crows, exotic dreams, and crimes
that only demise forgives.
Sulphur River Review 88
From the mountains of wheat
to unmined coasts of milk and money
thoughts are empty of wailing bellies.
The air is grimy with snacks and booze
on the fat that belches townhouse and ranch
and movement cripples a creeping hand
while rocketing chains and expensive pain.
Among cropless bowls and wilting bodies
wall-to-wall living rooms a moment away are dragged
but not a kernel is shaken from wallpaper eyelids
left with magazine pinups selling soap.
In the churches of cones, gingerbread, and beans
the dieting and lonely gathering mid-week
cover their mouths with bored hands
and cups of decaf coffee.
Grand Street 86
The sky is threadbare these mornings.
When the horizons are put on,
the sun is out at the elbows.
Patches of haze, dirtying,
wrinkling the fabric of everything,
tear at hearts, the cowhides till pennies tinkle
down streets to save undeveloped land
of millionaires. When the occupants of the planet are
at their brightest and buildings
are hunching, everyone thanks each other
for their contribution.
Then the civilization exposes itself
to the evening wind, and vagrant shreds
of blue and gold are blown
like kisses around city squares.
New Letters 84
"World Series” is a poem from my collection Americana, forthcoming in 2014 from Press Americana. It is not about the Boston Red Sox, but an accounting of the fear of the international and economic threats that has taken hold in this country since 9/11, and that has made the idea of a post-American world possible. The fear instilled by Islamic terrorists was used to advantage by the Bush administration to cow the American population. To this day, workers don’t have time to be furious with government or banks or at having been duped by the economic elite. People are working two and three jobs to keep what they haven’t lost already. The lure into consumerism in the 1990s was countered with the fear of international terrorism and the terror of debt. A large segment of the population is as easy to manipulate as FOX News wishes. The poem "World Series" was composed after the manuscript was announced the winner of the Americana Prize, specifically for this book and brings the collection current. The other work in Americana spans decades of writing, mostly dating from the 1980s, a handful from the 70s. In 1980, I embarked on two projects. The first was to write poems that were “snapshots” of Americana: Diners (what was left of them), gas stations, automobiles, tenements, strip malls, etc. The second project was to explore whether Arnold Toynbee’s assertion that civilizations become so when they meet challenges with a successful responses. Since then, the collections came together and as a whole explores culture in America with Arnold Toynbee’s theory in mind, reminding us that we are already living in the “post-American world,” a time for the “rise of the rest” as Fareed Zackaria has phrased it. It seems to me to represent Americana as an artifact. [Among Rich Murphy's previous books, Voyeur is the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Poetry Award.]
-- Rich Murphy