Olivia Murphy

When the Head Lolls Back

I watch the eyes eyes transfigure to tapestry, 
something nebulous accumulating over the oracle
at Delphi. Danger girl. Her body a vessel for trouble,
smoke prophet, supple as Persephone or swarms
of Sirens and the effervescent 

gargle. Dear Diary,
she writers, things are strange
She feels like taxidermy, glass eyeballs, ears pierced
with fishhooks, a fell swoop and computer-tune
disco, wetting her whistle on gin
and slim kisses. He told her that her name

sounded like the last chord warbling into
the darkened room-scape, Zeus at lamplight
limply holding her hips and the holy voice
enveloping the Earth’s curvature, lurking
in the snake holes and the groundhog
hideaways. Dear diary, she writes,

things are still strange. The water wobbling
to boil, the wandering inside that house
of nude tumult, the way it latches
on to the body as well as the dream. 

I see her and think: once, at prom, I ate bone marrow
on toast and felt like the iron ore. 
Once, I thought: I’ll miss a boy’s freckles
but not how I had to cut off
my hands each time we reached rapture. How I let my eyes
attach to every street sign, names of
quarry (like Vulcan, Nordic) and semi-
truck, feeling the perpetual texture
of each letter, then
wholeness, letting the whisper whip from lip.


One road diverges
into two horses. The sun
forgets it is almost
Thanksgiving and lasers
through the windshield
and onto your lap. 

Heedless, metal fishtails
and is beached
by firm father guard
rail. Here are the horses

because the road
is gone. The first: 
your body diminished
to inanimate meat.

You enter the ghost
kingdom in a puff
of gunpowder. Voice
wiped off like chalk. 

The second: you emerge
on bum foot and sprained
ankle into the grass and begin

memorizing the folds
of your crumpled armor. You
sigh. The horse
carries you back
to me. Your vessel
vanishes into a pixel
of lost coin
behind you. 

A modeled goose-
egg bruise on your breast
is the signature
of an escape artist.
For you, applause,

the reaper dreamed
of spooning up cream
but watched
the surface undisturbed.

Still Life with Peyote

Rachel takes
the pills in handfuls
of five, then
begins placing
them on spoonfuls
of strawberry
Yoplait until

the cactus spines extrude
from her stomach
and braid
with vertebrae;

outside, the headlights
against doom plum
clouds begin to look
like amputated

eyes, red and then
green like
a decision, flicking
bug from knuckle.

She hopes
to make her boyfriend
look less like
a bird and more

like a nest, locking
in on his wiry hair, 

an image secondary
to her body curled
like a jumbo shrimp

on the tile
at the base
of the sink, 
wishing only

for the minute
dunes of shadow
rippling her bed-
sheets like

whipped cream. 
Her breath
against the linoleum
sounds like

the ocean. Even
and grand. 

The mind
shrinks back
to a brown
acorn, or dumb

black rosette
blooming, tides of blood
subside, still
as a swimming