November 16, 2016

Peter Murphy

MEAN TIME

She asked for a pillow.
I brought her a fork.

She asked for a cigarette.
I brought her a sock.

She asked for a newspaper.
I brought her a tea set.

Is this what you mean?
I said.
Is this what you mean?

I poured milk in the toaster.
I spread jam on my head.

Bring me everything, she said, pointing
the fork at me, her darling boy.

I hopped from couch to chair
in the living room.
I flew out the window
as if I were a bird.
I landed on earth, which stunk
of flowers, not dirt.

Forgive me—
the sea breaching the walls
of our house, the chimney crumbling, the bed
clothes on fire—

it was the only way
I knew how to love her.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016
Tribute to Adjuncts

[download audio]

__________

Peter Murphy: “When I started teaching as an adjunct in 1982, I was also teaching high school English and creative writing full time. It wasn’t the money, which was pitiful, it was to gain more experience. While I loved teaching, my life was measured out in paperwork. Nights and weekends I sat in a small living room of a small apartment rarely looking up at my wife and three-year old. I missed them. They missed me. I am still at it 34 years later. However, adjuncts at Stockton University are now unionized so the pay is better, and I teach an advanced poetry writing course. Life is good. For me. However, adjuncts are still the Educated Poor, the lowest caste in academia. I see them wandering the hallways looking for a place to lay their load, coffee spilling out of their cardboard cups onto bags of ungraded papers as they try to remember which college they have arrived at, which students they are about to face, what they must have done to deserve this fate.” (website)