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Erin Murphy

About the Poet
Erin Murphy is the author of five collections of poetry: Distant Glitter (forthcoming from Word Press in 2013); Word Problems (2011); Dislocation and Other Theories (2008); Too Much of This World (2008); and Science of Desire (2004).

She is co-editor of Making Poems: 40 Poems with Commentary by the Poets (SUNY Press, 2010). Her works have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. She is associate professor of English at Penn State Altoona. Website:

Fall 2012 Poems »
Week of the Earthquake and Hurricane

First a shiver, then the rains, plural,
as if each drop deserved a name.

We were all off-kilter, stepping
with half-bent knees to keep from

falling. Just days before our world
tilted and sank, I’d found the knob

on the radio that let me flood my car
with bass, a deep throbbing in the

steering wheel. I gripped it tight. I needed
proof that I was here, that I could feel.


Mosquito Sonnet

Even research mosquitos need to eat,
and so, once a week, she thrusts a slab
of arm meat into the tank for a feast
of pumping blood. Her colleagues

read magazines, but she likes to see
the tiny astronauts descend,
the black thread of their legs priming
her petal flesh until it blossoms

into a jigsaw puzzle of welts.
When was the last time I felt the sting
of something so necessary, so real?
I don’t even greet the cold without

gloves. When was the last time I offered
myself up for the sake of science or love?


At the Academic Conference

I grow tired of the preening
panelists and walk four blocks

to the real zoo. It’s February.
The sidewalks are edged

with snow. I shake my own
unruly mane at the male lion

who leaps to his feet and roars,
protecting his pride. In the reptile

house, an alligator snapping turtle
waits for prey with beak agape,

as if the hinges of his mouth
are clogged with rust. Gorillas

rap the glass and vomit a lumpy
pink paste, then lick the concrete

clean. Back at the conference,
all the papers are titled Look at Me.

In the hallways, attendees crow
I know, I know, I know, I know,

I know more than you know.
Gorillas rarely vomit in the wild,

a guide explains. They see us
watching them. It’s all for show.


That First Summer

Remember the campground
in Maine, the one near the rocky

shore where we awoke at midnight
to the sounds of lions roaring?

Just beyond the fringe of trees
was a zoo, we learned, but not before

we had a visitor at our site,
a smaller feline, its tail a fan

of black and white fur. Here, kitty,
I purred, unzipping the tent.

Here, kittykittykittykitty. You
tugged the screen shut, pulled

me back. It’s a skunk, you said,
not a cat, then added Shoo! Pstt!

Undeterred, he sniffed our boots
and trash. And so we huddled

on the sleeping bag, our stillness
a spell to ward off his spray.

Eventually, he scuttled away.
Giggling, we dug back under

the covers. A black bear grunted.
A gorilla thundered Ugh ugh ugh.

An elephant played its trumpet.
And we made love.


~ Erin Murphy
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