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Florence Murry

A Ritual’s End

after Linda Gregg

Is this where the ache 

began under grandmother’s table? 

I watched men’s gray slacks 

and women’s nylon legs

through the lace cloth.

Stuck indoors a trapped bird I wanted 

cold air. I wanted winter in my face.

Wood benches in windowless churches 

did not comfort me. Later my winged body hardened 

to steel. Fortified, I no longer felt daggers for my sins—

when I broke rules & cracked glass.

when I answered counterfeiter’s midnight calls,

tasted his mint breath and bathed 

in his smooth olive skin. 

Now, rusted a bit my body stiffens.

I no longer can glide the slow crawl— 

no arching on a park bench 

or on the hood of a black 49 Buick.

I will never give up wearing lace & silk.

Let the scent of cut roses leave this place. 

Let the open caskets stay closed.

Let them hide powdered faces iced to touch.

Leave the slow motion voices.

Leave the polished shoes 

that scrap against wood floor.

Let the lace I looked through that blurred 

this world and the next lift

the room’s cold chill. 

Let winter come. 

Breathe the open sky. 

Shed the disjointed stain.

Shed the tight clutch.

Let hail. Let snow.

August Heat

Last night, in bed shirtless I pulled

covers over him. It used to be 

we’d lay bare. The late night breeze 

across our bodies goose-bummed 

to a smoothed chill.

Cars on Santa Canyon Road swish,

swish then a lull,

swish, lull—an interlude

plays like surf at the water’s edge. 

He kicks the cover to our ankles,

He meanders my crooked spine

then moves to my hip bones —

skin to skin our cells sliver 

away time & its sharp silver fillings. 

The Shallow End

The farthest you would ever come into the bay’s calm water was three inches. 

There you lay flat on your back and floated in your one-piece black suit and white cap.

You glared straight at the sun. Your unpolarized glasses still remained on your face. 

You stretched out near where the water lapped at the shore. You never ventured 

further, mom. I think how different things might have been had I taught you how to step

in and let the water buoy you up, taught you the breaststroke and how to tread water.

Instead, I muscled up a reef between us. Raised my arms and turned my back 

on you, doing the best you could in Back Bay’s shallow water.

I trained my eye on the orange beacon far out. I swam to deeper water. 

I never lingered near you—my fear of going under. 

A Monday Swim in 2020 with the TV On

Outside, the dove strikes seeds against the ground to split.

An adolescent mocking bird craters 

forward then back. It balances on the fence.

I dive into water that appears a sky to the bees.

They crash head first, legs curled inward. 

Sheen-glossed wings pump against the wet blue—

celestial freedom liquidizes

like those who hunger for a  new country —

those locked in cages, heads against the floor, 

covered by foil blankets. They wait

for a lost mother, a brother, a father. 

I swim back and forth. Water fills my ears.

Back inside, the TV blasts the next numbed cycle—

outrage lost. During this plague 

somewhere a small voice drowns.

No Reservation

This marriage a backyard jungle from the start— 

No reservations at Panda China, 

no flowers at the door. 

Like the bougainvillea that spills over the fence 

causal and tangled our thorns scratch. 

We bleed. 

We dig in to save the feral cat. 

Our sego palm fronds stretch 

open & hold a dubious dove nest 

& her marbled eggs. 

A Christmas card came from my ex 

after twenty years silent. 

When married he refused 

Holland tulip bulbs special ordered 

from Beck. Color my son wanted to plant 

in barren backyard plots. 

A macramé hung over our fireplace 

woven Jude by my then husband’s ex braided 

years before. Still, I took refuge 

in his stayed measured odometer miles, 

his thighs roughened 

to his bicycle’s seat & to his exactness—

 precise to the penny. 

A web of spun sugar, I required a shield 

until on a two-lane asphalt road 

in Atascadero I dissolved. 

My voice echoed off granite. 

Now, like the neon mallards in the air 

my guy and I circle and circle. 

We survive uneven weather 

& land back in our yard askew. 

Florence Murry’s poetry has appeared in Amethyst Review, Stoneboat, Off The Coast Journal, Bluestem Magazine, Rockhurst Review, Southern California Review, and others. She has studied with Jack Grapes and the Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective and she is a part of The Poetry Salon. She lives and writes in Southern California. Her book, Last Run Before Sunset, was recently accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press.

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