Poems by Mark A. Murphy

Mark A. Murphy is an Ace poet, living with GAD, and OCD. He has poems forthcoming in Cultural Weekly and Acumen. He has had work published in 18 countries. He is a 3 time Pushcart Nominee, and has published seven books of poetry to date, including, 'Tin Cat Alley & Other Poems: Not to be Reproduced' by Venetian Spider Press, 2021. German publisher ‘Moloko Print’ are to publish his latest collection, ‘The Ruin of Eleanor Marx’ in the spring of 2022.

Pocket Change

Doctor Aveling has relegated fraternity, 

knowledge, women and family

to the dustbin of base desire, reducing

any memory of truth, love, 

belonging to a fiscal exchange

So, the kiss in the dark subordinates

both public and private life to the logic 

of value and price

The cost of fealty, FICTITIOUS 

A promissory not worth ink or paper

Nothing is Lost

No less convincing or able than the scorpion

under water, the frog must swim

against the stream, 

as she carries the interloper across 

the widest expanse

of the river to the other bank –

questioning her commitment and loyalty

to a creature that can know 

nothing of duty 

and love, as if torn between 

her obvious aptitude and an assumed 

subservience or pity for one less unfortunate.


Ignoring or failing to acknowledge the danger

to mind and body,

she perseveres in spite of the burden

under the glare 

of an unforgiving sun –

unable to let go of the past or betray 

her own self-loathing in favour of self-preservation

like so many female amphibians,

bound in chains

and the habit of giving

without a thought for personal gain

like a prisoner on Death Row choosing a last meal.


When the scorpion betrays the frog

as is his want, all hell breaks 

loose, but nothing and no one can save a soul

who loves others so completely, 

she has forgotten,

or indeed, never knew – how to love herself.

Danse Sacrale (L’Élue)

We are so bound up in discord

The centuries cannot disentangle us… -

Arseny Tarkovsky


No need to pathologize 

the defiant anorexic

who has lost her mother,

her eldest sister, her father

and all reasons to love, 

though she still nurses her invalided

spouse like an angel of mercy

No need to spell it out, except living 

on borrowed time

concentrates the mind like a dance 

of death

So, recklessness emerges

as a defence for her secret night games 

and a mesmerizing



What to expect when the inner child 

ultimately failed 

to cut the apron strings

The dreams that imprisoned her

conjuring visions 

of a fanatical love sickness 

in a father who wished to possess 

and protect a daughter

unable to accept failure or rejection

Scrap Books to the Soul

If you want an image of the soul, look at the human body.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

1 The Book of Mirrors

For the youngest daughter of philosophy’s

oddest bedfellow

we learn as we look/

look as we learn

There is always someone who waits

ghostlike, trapped 

behind Highgate’s imperious poplars

Consuming demons, match-girls, massacres

as she chisels tombs

blood beating in her ears

Calling out from beyond the wreckage of the moon 

etched in the pages 

of a gossamer bible

The soul’s reflection, lost and found in the mirror

and marriage

  of cell and electron/

labour and love

Rabbinical Jew and minor Prussian Baroness 

having it out 

on the bedroom floor

Giving birth to Lady Jane Grey and Garibaldi

Hot cross buns 

and Pinot Noire

Uncle Angel 

and Auntie Lizzie


and Irish Rebellion

Sunrise at Camden Lock

Sunset over Soho and Sydenham

2 The Book of Languages

The long history of each physical


(Wir ficken uns in unseren Milliarden)

perpetually attracting and repelling 

as cleaver and hatchet bloody the throat

of the night

The wounded heart balancing the dynamics

of humiliation with the geometry

of love’s mania 

A lifetime of wringing hands and en passant 

Pour les idéaux, toujours les idéaux

Turning the Nine of Swords, as she acquiesces

to the open book 

of her powder and paint

3 The Book of the Earth

Of course, Old Nick leaves her

to fend for herself

 waiting for the backstage call

‘O’ Woe the day…’

to play Miranda or Ariel

instead of Caliban or Prospero

Forever on the threshold 

of transformation

 No last hurrah for letting go

or accepting fate

No last hurrah for wishful thinking

Not cabbages or coal scuttles

but human souls 

who can move beyond

the kingdom of machine man, and child labour

Hungry eyes and air-borne sickness,

to the realm of rational artistry and Gattungswesen

4 The Book of Utopias

Beyond class 

and the history of class

the energy of self-realisation


(the secrets of Leonardo

the magic and paradox of Shakespeare

the rebellion of Beethoven)

If we don’t hang collectively

we shall surely hang


Our very thoughts and emoting

the work of our own hands

as we feed the fire

embrace orphan and brother


cook dinner

play God

scribble a few last words

Our very humanity grounded

on our engagement with others

as we rehearse our lines

forgive and ask nothing 

weep together


sleep together

 scribble a last few words

Never permitted to become 

fully human


The smell of yesterday’s cabbage, repeating

       ad nauseum 

like the citations 

of yellow eyed cats


the mahogany escritoire, and copper coal scuttle

in the broken heart of ‘The Den,’ 

7 Jew’s Walk

Where ghosts of oak, line Sydenham’s affluent avenues

Sanitising Marx

Stuttering love poet and habitual boozer,

Old Nick, who transforms 

Hegel’s Dialectic into a philosophy of history

to dethrone kings and emperors

writes yet another begging letter

to his oldest and most loyal friend, Freddy Engels,

who now takes on board paternity 

of Freddy Demuth on account of Marx’s wife

and the old man’s standing in the IWA.

An ugly lie being preferable to the ugly truth.


Suffice it to say, when Ryzanov told Stalin

of Freddy Demuth’s real paternity,

Stalin reassured him: Let it be buried DEEP

in the archives of the Marx-Engels Institute

where the matter might be forever forgotten.

The Invisible Hours

Each of our lives is a Shakespearean drama

raised to the thousandth degree.

Anna Akhmatova

Any student of Shakespeare

can join the dots…

trusting Hermione and Paulina 

to play out their passions

 away from king and court

Any student of Miss Marx 

can join the dots…

trusting Eleanor and Olive Schriener

to play out their passions

away from party and public

Two women especially fond 

of Cleopatra and her household 

Indeed, the corsetless conveyors 

of sexual freedom

would spend endless hours

dining and dying 


before falling exhausted,

satisfied, at last, into their dreams

of the Elizabethan avante-gard


When the men are silent, it is our duty to raise our voices in behalf of our ideals.

Clara Zetkin

Not everything you read is necessarily true…

Not every capitalism is an historical necessity…

Not all self-sacrifice is self-interested…

Not everything can be reduced to class struggle…

Not every paterfamilias is a bourgeois hypocrite… 


Not so hard to believe Eleanor Marx,

Rosa Luxembourg, 

and Clara Zetkin, are talking shop

inside London’s Queen’s Hall 

Now home to the Fourth Congress 

of the Second International: 

AKA The International Socialist Workers and Trade Union Congress

Not such a leap of faith to declare: 

all three women are UNIFIED by more than 

mere psychological insight

More than the greatest good for the greatest number

Not so au contraire, to popular opinion, 

that Marxists,

even Marxist Feminists, 

sometimes make curiously attractive orators


Not so well known (collective needs aside)

After every good debate

After a remarkable day expelling anarchists

Refuting gradualists

Reaffirming their Marxisms

Every good orator deserves 

a Wild Woodbine 

washed down with a quart

of Hall’s Tonic Wine

And, in due course, an abundance of time, to smell the roses

The Devil in Old Nick

Mutato nomine de te fabula narrator.


We’ve heard all the tales of bonhomie 

The non-payment of rent, bills, debts

The pub crawls with Library and General

down the Tottenham Court Road

Offering the locals outside for a punch up

Smashing streetlamps on the way home

Urinating in public (the list goes on)

But even devils love something other than

their own reflections 

and the Moor was no exception 

The old man loved and hated

with all the ferocity of a grizzly bear 

His children were his cubs

His wife his queen

His many enemy’s fair game in the struggle 

for life and death


Old Nick laughed 

in the face of self-importance

More interested in where the next pint was coming from

than poverty of philosophy

Certain, deep down, the needs of the many vitiated

the magnificent hats of the few

Bette Davis Eyes

Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances. 

Sanford Meisner

The curtains are drawn as the house lights dim

to dark. A spotlight illuminates 

a face in a sea of shadow. Her eyes burn keen 

as coal beneath her superior brow.

The Bloomsbury Thespians already suspect 

foul play, bitter tears.

A bell rings. It is winter. Nora Helmer laughs

to herself as she approaches 

her husband’s study. Torvald is also in high spirits,

though he cautions his wife

about the Christmas tree:

We can’t afford to spend too recklessly my little lark!

So the scene is set for Christmas, 

and the ladder of best intentions, surprises, sorrow.

Nora Helmer pauses, stares into the pit, auditorium, 

vanishing point.

Before the night is out, she will consider self-exile,

social ruin, even suicide –

as family and fate throw their hats into the ring.


Now the Nora show is in full swing. We are on the edge

of our three shillings seats.

Straw Poll or Peter and the Wolf


Anyone familiar with the death

of Sergei Prokofiev

will observe that quirk of history, 

which puts his passing 

on the same day 

as man of many cloaks, 

Joseph Stalin.

For three days, workers

and peasants, throng

to mourn the man who had brought

them such heroic progress.

For three days, it is unthinkable

to shoulder maestro, Sergei Sergeyevich 

out of his Muscovite villa –

owing to the great AGGREGATION

of human passion, paying

final dues

to the flower thief lying on his plinth.


Students of history will note, 

forward motion 

has both its dividends 

and deficits.

Students of Prokofiev will note

his talent 

as a world class chess strategist.

He who kills

the wolf saves the duck.

However, even the coffin of GENIUS 

must fall in line,


and Man of Steel,

when it all comes down to the straw 

billowing in the wind.

From the poet’s manuscript The Ruin of Eleanor Marx 


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