by David Murphy
Folded like origami,
The white crane stands
Knee-deep in water.
Like a metaphor of men
Watching for women,
The crane watches for fish.
Over the still, brown water.
Egrets and herons
Lift their broad wings
And bear themselves
Past Spanish moss,
And graying wooden docks.
Still the crane waits.
Then, with the same
Sudden, heartless nihilism
Of a gun shot,
The crane strikes.
The tea leaves are muddled; the lies are twice-told.
A lot and very little have changed.
Folk are not called slaves but still they are sold,
And some marriages can still be arranged.
Still. Still: Ignorance, as before, is poor.
It thieves, robbing both the foolish and wise.
And still, honest work makes a cherished core;
Since before the Greeks, such work has been prized.
Some metaphors remain too: Hope, the bird—
Whether caged or just a “thing with feathers”—
Its trilling song is an uplifting word;
Its wings fly one out of foulest weathers.
So, much is hard to parse: wild, chaotic.
But the human spirit remains so clear.
Amidst the coiling maelstrom psychotic
Are love and care: old charts by which we steer.
On oak branches hang frosted leaves–
Brittle, icy, and walnut brown–
Among stones, wolves, owls, swans, and geese,
Where flakes of snow fall thickly down.
Fragrant pines and gnarled cedars stand
In a gorge by the frozen stream
Where fog lies in a milky band,
And the sun makes the clear ice gleam.
Through this cold, all solitary,
Walks a man most melancholy.
All he owns is all he carries:
His bread, water, hopes, and follies.
He recalls a girl from his past.
He dreads the long, poor road ahead
For darkness here is most unkind.
He has no place to lay his head.
He treks across the snowy plains
Past the scrub oak, the pines, and streams,
His mind is hard, his body pained.
His clothing is worn at the seams.
The moon rises, new and dark.
Stars are woven like fishing nets.
The land lies daunting, grim, and stark.
David Murphy won the Seaton Fellowship for Creative Writing in 2006. He served as the editor-in-chief of Touchstone, a literary magazine published by Kansas State University. He has published most recently in The Fourth River, Papyrus, and Saint Somewhere. He lives and writes outside in a pueblo outside of Tepic, Mexico.
Artist: C. Flores