Comment from the editor on this selection: “A road trip embroidery deserves a road trip poem, and Matthew Murrey delivered the mood—the lonely, dull, excited, monotony of highway travel. I also appreciated how the thread metaphor only appears in the title, giving the poem an extra unspoken layer to ponder.”
Comment from the painter, Åsa Antalffy Eriksson, on her selection: “This was hard. As I read through the poems, I thought it would be impossible to select a winner. Then I read them again, and again, and forced myself to drop one after the other. Quite a few of the poems made me cry—many had written about a child lost, and some of those pieces were almost too much to bear: well-written, deeply touching and evoking one of my greatest fears as a mother. Yet, I did not choose any of them for a winner. In the end, the poem I could not drop was Matthew Murrey’s ‘Teeny Tiny.’ It has a good flow and not a single weak line. It balances perfectly between narration and suggestion, presenting a sombre theme with a sort of casualness that appeals to me no end. ‘Teeny Tiny’ echoes the atmosphere and the imagery of my painting faithfully, but also adds something completely new and unexpected.” (website)
Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of our quarterly Ekphrastic Challenge, in which we ask poets to respond to an image provided by a selected artist. This May, the image was a painting by Åsa Antalffy Eriksson. We received 187 entries, and the artist and Rattle‘s editor each chose their favorite. Timothy Green’s choice will be posted next Friday. For more information on the Ekphrastic Challenge visit its page. See other poets’ responses or post your own by joining our Facebook group.
“Box Turtles Fucking” by Matthew MurreyJanuary 2, 2014
BOX TURTLES FUCKING
Hurry, come see. He
was standing on his stubby back legs,
the concave shell of his yellow belly
pressed snug to the round rock
of her dark back.
His little front feet were scrabbling
for a hold. His neck
was extended, stretched taut
and pulling a look of pure
lust on his face that made us—
thirteen and fourteen—laugh and snort.
We’d never seen two turtles doing it,
but there they were. Man,
he was jazzed and desperate
like he’d taken a baited hook
in the beak and was being hauled
up by the face, all that urge
dragging him out of his shell,
tugging him to stand and grimace
and grab on. We’d read somewhere
that sometimes the male will fall
backwards when he’s done,
and stuck on his back like that, will die.
I could live with that;
though I figured it’d be a long time
before I’d get so hooked. Sometimes
it seemed the want and wait
would drive me nuts.
those turtles were caught up
in the sheer, raw draw of it.
I might’ve watched and grown
hushed, like someone bedside
at a death or a birth. Oh, I did watch,
and watch, but like the dumb fuck
I was, all I managed to do was laugh.
Matthew Murrey: “I’ve been writing with determination since 1986. In high school I fell in love with words: camping with the Boy Scouts in the mountains of North Carolina, I wanted to be Wordsworth, and while serving Mass as an altar boy, Hopkins was my hero (not a bad pair to admire!). I’ve changed a lot since then—the Boy Scouts would probably kick me out, and I kicked myself out of religion a long time ago—but I still want to convey in words what it is to be alive and human in these crazy times, and someone has to do it—so why not me?” (matthewmurrey.weebly.com)