On it may stay his eye
In this cathedral of soil and stained glass I hear
songs composed by the dead and sung to the dead
they worship. Their voices move me the way certain
words move me—cleave, bound, censure, plug, refrain—
peculiar words that work overtime, like belief,
to mean themselves and what they oppose.
I sailed into this language under the flag
of a foreign tongue. There were far too many riches
for anyone to call their own. So I took the sounds
that pleased me most and turned them into song.
Author’s note: “On it may stay his eye” is part of a series of poems that take their titles from 19 etchings by David Hockney called “The Blue Guitar,” which was his response to Wallace Steven’s “The Man With The Blue Guitar,” which was his response to Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,” which was his response to encountering a busker on the streets of Barcelona circa 1902. Whew! My poems are not intended to be ekphrastic, but if you’re curious, you can see Hockney’s etchings here.
Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York where he managed a nightclub, operated heavy equipment, and drove a taxi. Author of eleven books and chapbooks of prose and poetry, his work has appeared in The Common, Diode, Guernica, Hippocampus, The New Welsh Reader, Rattle, The Sun and elsewhere. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University in Atlantic City where he runs workshops for writers and teachers in the US and abroad.