“Our First Five Days in the Country” by Joan Murray

Joan Murray


Should we cut back the shrubs
so we can see the pond? I ask my husband.
No, he says, then the people who walk down our driveway
will see us. We’ll have no privacy when we
lie out in the yard reading Baudelaire.

Should we put up a rope to keep them out?
No, they’ll only steal the rope. These are country people—
they’re the ones who burn barns and poison wells
and drive off livestock in the middle of the night
—aren’t they already messing around with our lawn sculptures?

Should we explain to them that it’s our deeded property?
No, I have tried and tried. In the morning 
they give me their country smiles, but by evening
they’re all down here from their huge acreage
in their Cherokee Laredos to walk their dogs.

Should we dig up the driveway so there’s no place for them to walk?
No, they’ll only dump their lawn clippings where it was,
and put up signs for kittens and Republicans,
and set up rows of white plastic tag-sale tables,
and hook up an 8-seater hot tub in our basement.

Should we pray to God? I have seen trees struck by lightning—
surely he is more powerful than they are?
Go to the basement door and switch on the light—
you’ll see they’re already there, and God’s
at the top of the stairs. He’s their lifeguard.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers


Joan Murray: “I grew up on the Harlem River in the Highbridge section of the South Bronx—between the roars from Yankee Stadium to the east and the Polo Grounds to the west. My New York was a place of adventure (I walked alone through the dark of an abandoned subway tunnel) and for meeting interesting people (I helped shield a teen boy prostitute from the police). But my New York was also a place of anonymity, social divides, and inescapable dangers. I left New York in my thirties but still dream about it once a week: Either I’m lost there or trying to find my way back. As a poet, I thank New York for giving me a broad, detailed vision, an energetic rhythm, and deep introspection. Not surprisingly, it’s the setting of many of my poems, particularly in my first book and also my latest one.” (web)

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