Ryan Murphy

Aubade At Sea

Anger is an anchor but we
were running the chains

under drear skies at sea
night north. November 24th

& it wasn’t the gray waves
or the spray or the lone

tern perched on the line
to mast & points beyond

or even the stubborn silence
broken by creaking wood.

It was the water rushing in.
A rock bit a crack

& that crack groaned to a leak
& that leak had split to a

No, better not to say what
good would it do us now?

You’ve got to sit with your demons
but we were never any good at that

two bottles tolling on the broken
gray steps at your apartment

“Is this sunrise?” You looked at me
something pulling up your eyes

& shook your head, let the bottle
crack on the sidewalk.

Somewhere past these clouds
past even the snow sinking

to slush on planks & barrels
& all the frayed ropes without

end. I know there are stars & the names
that my father taught me, but I

never could remember the shape
of things to come

Only the feeling of this bucket, sullen tin
frozen to my fingers I think

I lost some skin that last time &
I think you know

I hit that rock two days
from shore & I think

you really thought I could sail
& I think an apology

like plowside snowpiles &
this isn’t worth it-half the water

shakes out like the worst martini
climbing stairs & falling stairs

in the heave of the storm shivering,
water not even bothering to drip

just hanging like a film
like the one playing in my mind

of that September morning
when I decided we’d steal a sail.

When I dropped the bucket
it hit the wood like the call to church

over gray-slate roofs & hills
& half-frozen rivers.

When the saltslush hit our ankles
you put an arm on my shoulder

The raft came together
a spot of yellow on gray sea

and you whispered to me
“Is this sunrise?”

The last time I felt warm
was in your arms.


Ryan Murphy is a poet living in Davenport, Iowa, where he writes, teaches, and wishes he didn’t have to cross so many bridges. His work has appeared in Vine Leaves, Torrid Literature, and Garbanzo, among others.