August 24, 2010

from The Last Pub on Earth by Peter E. Murphy

Garry Morgan walks the Cardiff streets
looking for art. The night before he got tapped
out at a dive on Tiger Bay when the onion breath
next to him knocked him off his bar stool
and took his change.
Garry longs for renaissance
but knows his chances are not good.
He’s not sure he exists.
If he does, he believes he will die soon.
Art lives.
Garry would like to become art.
Barred from the National Museum
after he tries to enter a huge landscape—
It was so realistic. Apple trees. Soft grass.
A stream he could sink his feet into—
But the guard stops him as he climbs
onto the frame, escorts him to the exit.
Poor Garry.
He reaches a studio where he will remove
his clothes for cash so the blokes
who paint him will not have to imagine.
On another gig, he is covered in wax
for a show called Pyrotechnicality.
At the opening and closing—
there can only be one performance—
the artist waves a blowtorch over his body
parts, making them move.
One limb drops slowly from waving hello.
His back bends when the master-hand points
to it with fire. Garry feels nothing,
even as the audience applauds when his knees
melt away, even as the floor of the gallery rises
up to meet him in one helluva sloppy kiss.

Originally appeared in The Literary Review, Vol. 53, No. 2, Winter, 2009/2010.

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Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York City where he operated heavy equipment, managed a night club and drove a cab. Recipient of a 2009 Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, he is the author of two books of poems, Stubborn Child and Thorough & Efficient. He directs the annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway in Cape May, New Jersey.

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