Jerome Ellison Murphy

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Jerome Ellison Murphy


Father’s father
was an Einstein, long-haired
with his shocks of white knowledge.

Passed for white in the Navy:
brushed right past the dynamite.
WWII, had seen Tokyo Bay.

Cigarette smoke now ghosted
his body, kissing deep into
wizening tawn. His whispery figure

all but pickled in whiskey,
that doused wick almost out.
Memory, now, as slim—

If I reached across carpet
for a candy
that slipped, what talons

beat me to it: then, whose hoarse
rasp, guttering, “Give grown ups
the ones that get dirty.”

Shade tree mechanic. Dealer part-
time in liquor. Married darker
Dona Murphy. “Hell on wheels,”

said neighbors, as did four sons,
four daughters. Quick to whip.
Adulterer. Might have killed

that one man. And still slips
out of hearsay, all sweet
to young me. So what

larger hand, now,
overtakes this small reach: keeps
away one that got dirty.

Jerome Ellison Murphy reads “Tarnish”

Jerome Ellison Murphy earned his MFA at NYU, where he currently serves as Undergraduate Programs Manager of the Creative Writing Program. His critical writing appears in The Yale Review, LA Review of Books, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere. His poetry can be found in such publications as LitHubNarrative MagazineThe AwlBellevue Literary Review, and Pleiades, and was recorded for NPR for the Emotive Fruition performance series.