Three Poems by Erin Murphy

Ilha dos Gatos

The day my gynecologist
says postmenopausal the way

you’d mention rain, I learn
about Ilha dos Gatos

off the coast of Brazil,
an Alcatraz for abandoned cats—

feral, ravenous, spawning.
This is not a place for birds.

Desire is a noun and a verb
but never a command.

Look at me wanting
and wanting.

*

To the Man Who Stole Our Pregnant Dog

I hope she bit you, shredding the flesh
of the hand that wooed her from my childhood

yard. You probably sold her pups off the back
of a rusty truck at a flea market, a handwritten

sign missing an s or a t in Bassett Hound.
What I remember: her banana peel ears

swept the ground like unhemmed drapes.
We called her Blarney, and I’d already

named the babies after other Irish castles
from the set of pleather-bound Britannicas

we bought by the month. Every evening
for weeks, I sat in the bath after the water turned

cold, thinking my discomfort would bring her
home. The walls shuddered with the last

rumblings of my parents’ marriage. I slid
under to see how long I could go without air,

the soapy surface a scrim over a body
that was there, then not there.

*

I Knew a Pyromaniac

A neighborhood boy,
barely old enough to sit

at the kitchen table
without a booster seat.

He couldn’t tie his shoes
but lit a match with one

flick of a slim wrist.
He sniffed sulfur on his

fingers the way most kids
inhale the smell of warm

chocolate chip cookies.
His father was gone—

not dead, just gone. This
we shared. His mother

was the shadow of a shadow.
First a swing set burned.

Then a garden shed. And
then they moved. Once

when I was babysitting him,
he sat on my lap and drew

a picture of a girl. Who’s that?
I asked. He pointed.

You. I was on fire. He didn’t
know how to hold a crayon.

But he knew the hottest
part of the flame was blue.

*

Erin Murphy’s eighth book of poems, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Diode, 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 at Penn State Altoona. Website: http://www.erin-murphy.com

Cheering for the Dogs by Matt Dennison

Cheering for the Dogs

While on my back roof covering
the tarp with a larger tarp to hide
its nails from the rain, I notice
the dogs in my neighbor’s yard
clawing at their fence—one board
knocked loose, they stick their heads
through and stare, excited to see
beyond, for beyond is always where
we dogs gaze when trapped in caves,
though some caves must be maintained
to allow a proper gazing point be framed.

*

Matt Dennison is the author of Kind Surgery, from Urtica Press (Fr.) and Waiting for Better, forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press. His work has appeared in Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, Natural Bridge, The Spoon River Poetry Review and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made short films with Michael Dickes, Swoon, Marie Craven and Jutta Pryor.

Traveling Back by Barbara Sabol

Traveling Back

On our nightly walks, my dog, Traveler,
will crane toward the occasional passing car,
studying each driver’s face, maybe searching

for his first master, the one who might have
taught him to lean full-bodied into love,
who conditioned in him a fierce loyalty.

Perhaps gone astray chasing a chipmunk
in the park or, slipping past a backyard gate,
he found himself irretrievably lost.

Rescued from the street two counties
and six years removed, my cherished companion
may believe, in the instinctive sensory wash

of canine thinking, that his first master
has all this time been driving everywhere,
still looking for him.

I was the family black sheep, declaring to the one
whose life was given over to my care,
I wish you weren’t my mother, with no thought

of my power to bruise. Knowing only the chafe
of that bond, I left with a one-way bus ticket
in my blue jean pocket. In the last years

of my mother’s life, I worked my way back,
fumbling with the intricacies of that knot,
frayed with time and distance, but still holding.

If one day some driver should stop, push open
the passenger door, call my dog by a name
that pricks up his ears, makes him shiver and whine

with joy, I wonder if I could release his leash,
let him leap into the car, and then with a resolve
hard as love, close the door behind him.

*

Barbara Sabol’s fourth collection, Imagine a Town, was awarded the 2019 Poetry Manuscript Prize from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. Her poetry has appeared widely in journals; most recently, Evening Street Review, Northern Appalachia Review, The Comstock Review, and Literary Accents, as well as in numerous anthologies. Her awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. Barbara lives in Akron, OH with her husband and wonder dogs.