Even the Ugly Blueberry
Has a purpose, unless it’s only point
is being savoured in its perfection—
in the service of teeth, bursting
its blue blood like some kind of sacrifice,
submitting itself to sustain life or
enhance it, both emblem and archetype:
avowal of Nature’s deathless bounty.
What can be said of the ripe prize, chosen
against its incognizant will; at least
not forsaken? Its use being useful,
its best self inside a beak or blender,
transformed, in effect, into something else,
like that first apple, only opposite:
its meaning derived from grandeur, not grief.
We enjoy it, extol it, we eat it,
paint it, photograph it, write about it.
What, then, can be said for the withered one,
neglected, stockpiled, sullied by time,
consigned to limbo between vined and corrupted?
What does its neglect signify, if Fate
forsakes its function—consumed or admired?
Not unlike sad men, their pruned, sour skin
a fruitless reminder: now it’s too late.
Knight and Squires, Redux
My inbox is empty, which isn’t to say there aren’t any messages
in there. But the one (I know better than to hope for two—or more)
confirming something, anything, with regards to my genius (Obvi
I’ll use a lower-case-g because only dead people and sociopaths
can employ capital letters on their own behalves). Okay, maybe
not genius but an affirmation, an acceptance, or the opposite of
the formulation every rejected writer reads like a lifelong series
of not-so-gentle reminders: you’re not the witness this world seeks.
I can’t go on, I’ll go on, one of us wrote, but he could go on since
he’d already been admitted entrance, earned the tailwind necessary
for something we call a career, an annuity, succour from the squall.
Had Melville used email could he have looked in Hawthorne’s draft
folder and seen the unsent missive, declaring, at long last, that he
got it, he appreciated it, God-Damn it to Hell, he envied it, which
is why he’d never send it, same as all the confederates and critics
who had bigger fish to fry, industry events to attend, and cocktails
to consume with other insiders and those born or bred with the burden
of being a Genius? Believe me, Nathaniel might have said, it’s better
to do the work without distraction, without ever trusting who your
friends are, sensing that reviews and plaudits and money are all dust
once you’re done, and who knows how the world will measure you—
and your work once it no longer matters? That’s the story of my life.
But poor Herman could not see, and never knew all the things not
awaiting him in classrooms and graduate seminars and reprints, even
Movies and Biographies: an entire industry, built plank by plank, salt
and blood and belief alive in every splinter—a bible of sorts for us,
the ones who seek solace and inspiration, The One we might turn to
when we wonder about our own unread messages and the fate that
awaits us (no hints, it’s too painful to actually peg the future), fellow
mates aboard a bigger boat, where attainment and acceptance mean
less than solidarity, or sweat, or something. No, that’s a lie: all of us
need a sign that signals, ballast for our belief—or lack thereof—that
obliged us to take a pen, find some faith, and compose in the first place.
Dog is God Backwards or Vice Versa
Dogs are never not alive
until they’re not;
And it’s not that they’re gone
so much as we aren’t.
It’s not about earning or appreciating
each and every nap;
It’s the peace of not needing approval.
And who owns whom?
Dogs rely on routine, a reminder
they’ve already evolved;
Perfected in accordance with man
defining what he needs.
Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. A long-time columnist for PopMatters, his work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. His chapbook, The Blackened Blues, was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2021. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of 1455. Read his published short fiction, poetry, and criticism here and on Twitter.