Peter E. Murphy

Down Time

I read on the internet that the fish oil
my cardio prescribed may also shake
away the blues that sway my moods,
which makes me wonder if the good
will of fish is contagious. So I’ve
earth-googled my development to see
if a neighbor has a pond where a school
of cheerful koi swish their feathery tails
back and forth, back and forth, the way
my wife and I once swished back and forth
before she left me for a better dancer.
I have to tell you, I’m not pleased that koi
can live longer than people, especially me.
Me and my chubby heart beating back
and forth, struggling to keep up, causing
my chest to throb, which is why the doc
also prescribed tiny nitro pills should
that fish swimming in the small ocean
of my chest get tired of flapping its fins.
I rise out of my recliner, go outside,
stroll past the mortgaged houses and turn
into the yard of a foreclosed neighbor
who couldn’t keep it up. I walk by
his wilted hydrangea, his exhausted hyacinths,
his pooped belladonna and find the murky pool
where the Cyprinus carpio, fat with Omega-3,
are floating on their backs. Their once
carroty skins are now the color of Kansas.
I want to pump their little chests,
kiss their slippery lips, bring them back
to life so they can make me happy.
Instead, I turn from their fishy graveyard
and trudge home to a cup of chamomile tea
offered by my wife who returned to me
when she got tired of dancing. She asks
if I had a good walk as she hands me
two gelatin globules the color of koi.
I thank my lucky days, my lucky nights.
I thank my lucky stars, my one lucky moon,
my beautiful wife. I kiss her lips. I catch
my breath. I sit down to rest. I sip my tea.
I take my meds.

No Problem

I rise out of the subway on 34th Street
and cover my eyes as the morning sunshine
blinds me, and I imagine this is how Lazarus
must have felt as he stumbled from his crypt,
unaware that the biggest problem everyone
faces has suddenly become for him, no problem.
I join the line at Java Land, not sure if Lazarus
died a second time. I picture him skipping
stones on the Dead Sea wondering
where everybody went. Ahead, customers
place their orders for a Venti, Skinny, Red-Eye Drip,
as the cheery barista says, No Problem.
Triple, Trent, Soy, No Foam Latte, No Problem.
Short, Dirty Chai. No Problem.
When it’s my turn, I say, Regular Coffee,
and suddenly the music spilling from the ceiling
crashes to the faux marble floor,
and the line behind me crushes to a stop.
Is there a problem? I ask the barista.
No prob…problem, he stammers,
but we don’t have regular.
That’s sounds like a problem, I say.
When he suggests a Tall, I nod.
The playlist brushes off its knees and starts up
as conversations return to their storylines.
When he asks my name, I say, No Problem,
and he writes, No Problem on the side of the cup
that won’t be big enough to change my life.
Can you supersize that? I ask.
He grabs a cardboard bucket as tall as the Empire
State Building, fills it to the brim with liquid life,
hands it to me, and as I pay, says, Have a nice day.

Author Portrait

Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York City where he operated heavy equipment, managed a nightclub, and drove a taxi. He is the author of nine books and chapbooks, including Stubborn Child, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Looking for Thelma, winner of the of the Wilt Chapbook Prize for Creative Nonfiction, forthcoming in 2018. His essays and poems have recently appeared in The Common, Diode, Guernica, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Welsh Reader, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University.