Scapegoat Borough and other poems

Munitions Magnanimity

The targets for the tolerant
came with a gun rack and delayed
viral police how-to videos:
A ticking clock mock-calm
after the lynching parties
and National Guard deployments.

When the white man judges color
overreaching and seeking
eyeball to eyeball talk,
hair shirts march through obstacle
courses to demonstrate the suffering
that justifies hatred and tests atmosphere.

Threatened with pain that safety
in identity loses to freedom,
the Caucasian inmates tidy among stock
cells and rifled neurons
in solidarity confinement.




New Deli Meditation

Sandwiched between synapses
and serotonin, the meat depends
on the delivery system
to move even the smallest muscle.
Lunch can go uneaten
should the bread vehicle diet,
garnish with will power
as the cook at the cutting board might.

Best for the patron who denies a mood
while playing with silverware,
salt and pepper shakers to apply
for a Maître d position when available
or better, own the snappy biochemist
wearing the special waiter shoes.

The secretion oozing at the corners
while chewing with two baby fingers
in the air may not bring about reflection
on K-9s attacking, but digesting
ligaments and fatty veins
calls for Gill Glut to consider
innocence and guilt.




Wheelbarrow for Parable

When the Fantasy Exchange Center
functions, each area resident wheels in
a big lie heaping with disillusionment,
irony, and broken promises for recycling.
However, the complaint department
never closes; the boisterous bartering barkers
die down to a mutter and growl
that disagreements never die.

At some tripping point, cliché
and platitude succumb to desperation,
and children parade away with a seed
for planting in dreams, an innocent baseline
narrative for generations to come.

Reconceived, a panacea story-line seduces
with the only possible passage for life.
Decades, perhaps a century 
without seam or seems, an oak
with peace at root and at leaf impresses.




Scapegoat Borough

While jetliners escape over heads,
the neighborhood waits
for the twin terrors to collapse
from excess and a trickledown theory.

Poverty and the police, engaged in crossfire,
pin down children into crippled adults.
Generation after generation survivors
on doorsteps and sidewalks pick up pieces.

By adolescence bootstraps have been sold
for rent and confidence in someday leaving
the block sours in the gutter out front.

Only first responders (and only
with backup) enter these streets.

Follow up visits from social workers
or representatives from the Second Class
Citizens Board shelter in place,
buried among office furniture.

Mean-while among smoldering tenements
and row houses baby buggies and toddlers
promise to wealth a body for easy empathy,
a scapegoat gang to justify revenge impulses,
and a place to throw both hands.


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Rich Murphy’s poetry collections have won two national book awards: Gival Press Poetry Prize 2008 for Voyeur and in 2013 the Press Americana Poetry Prize for Americana. Asylum Seeker is the third in a trilogy out now (2018) Press Americana. First in the trilogy was Americana. Body Politic, the second, published by Prolific Press in January 2017. Murphy’s first book The Apple in the Monkey Tree was published in 2007 by Codhill Press. Chapbooks include Great Grandfather (Pudding House Press), Family Secret (Finishing Line Press), Hunting and Pecking (Ahadada Books), Phoems for Mobile Vices (BlazeVox) and Paideia (Aldrich Press).