Five Poems by Patricia Murphy


The Paris of the Americas

At the ballet, at Teatro Colon, I kept my coat
buttoned to the neck. It was May, nearly winter.
The elegant women were in scarves, sweaters:
my strapless dress a burgundy faux pas.
Who knew the birthplace of the Tango was chock
full of withholders? We could hear the dancer’s

shoes brush the stage even from stories up.
We drank coffee at intermission, went to dinner
at midnight in a Parilla with a 20 minute wait,
full of families with dervish-children
from whom I learned to order ice cream:
strawberry. Your mother was dying.

We moved her in. I cooked for her, took her
clothes shopping. I loved her more than
I could love my own mother. Yours liked me,
which mine could never muster in my presence.
There is a picture of you in Recoleta cemetery,
in the sports coat you wore so we could get into

good restaurants. You were kissing Eva Peron’s grave.
We ate constantly. Took a nap every day at 3 pm.
We bought door stops shaped liked dog heads.
Later at a 9 course tasting I got tipsy. You had to pull me
away from the chef, whose hand I held while insisting
he was, “Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.” We needed

to get away. A day and a half in plane rides, and 5 nights
in a city that we later agreed we should live in.
A city that, if we had any courage we would be there now.
A city that wasn’t the city where your mother was dying.



You don’t have to floss all your teeth!
Just the ones you want to keep.
Dr Dacey, DDS, Cincinnati, Ohio

It was before latex gloves, before dentists stopped
giving lollipops to good little patients. We all had

so many teeth, just as we had so many arms
and so many legs. And what could stop us

from playing kick-the-can three more times
before our mothers’ voices grew hoarse? It was

the seventies. Everything was avocado, gold, or
corduroy. We played doctor in the basement,

while our parents watched M*A*S*H through the haze
of Benson & Hedges, sipping Scotch out of highballs.

Now I think I should go back to my grade school, squeeze
my fat ass into a tiny blue chair, tell those ponytails

and huskies to demand candy from the dentist, to steal
the key to the liquor cabinet, to loiter on the block until

after dark, until after their parents make good on their
promises, until they floss the last great tooth of the earth.


Monsoon Season: Morenci AZ

The three ton mine trucks reek
of burning oil, brakes. They rev,

stop to refuel. Today the reservoir
is lapis. The sky is slate but clearing.

The rock is drenched chalk.
Our cuffs are rolled nearly to knees.

Our raised voices are tangling
the way I wish our bodies would. 

It rained for five minutes, rock steaming,
This air is not the only heaviness.

I watch the belts drop chalocite,
malachite, azurite and chrysocolla.

Lion, dragon, hummingbird, sheep:
this way the clouds have meaning.

My only power is this ability to name.


Creosote, why are you looking at me

         like I’m the one with a bunny under

my yellow skirt? All you need to do is

         stink when wet. Grow, grow, grow

 with next to no encouragement.

         Like brother in the basement,

rearranging his bed-stand so that all items

         are perfectly arms-length.

Ohio morning, Ohio afternoon. 

         The things that wake us

do not have to be frightening.

         My god. How did he un-earth

all the intricate trills?

         Would they fit into my harvest basket?

Since later that week I’d board a plane

         for a different desert.


Because the body is illiterate, lacks
language any more complex than thirst;
and because the body came from another
body whose ultimate goal was to wean it;
and because the body saw a body burst
into flames on the bow of a boat;
and because the body watched its dog cross
the uncrossable street about to be stopped by
the unstoppable car; and because the body
went from soft & pink to rough & brown;
and because the body feels a stabbing, a
tingling, a dull ache, a numbness, a heat;
and because the body would tell you this
if it could. It would say hurting or I miss you.


Patricia Colleen Murphy founded Superstition Review at Arizona State University, where she teaches creative writing and magazine production. Her book Hemming Flames (Utah State University Press) won the 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award judged by Stephen Dunn, and the 2017 Milt Kessler Poetry Award. She won the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry with her collection Bully Love, published by the press as a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection. A chapter from her memoir-in-progress was published as a chapbook by New Orleans Review. Her writing has appeared in many literary journals, including The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, American Poetry Review, and most recently in Copper Nickel, Black Warrior Review, North American Review, Smartish Pace, Burnside Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, Hobart, decomP, Midway Journal, Armchair/Shotgun, and Natural Bridge. She lives in Phoenix, AZ.