I see hybird—the form itself on the brink of flight, swaddle of narrative unspooling skein by skein against the sky. The night our too-small son was cut from me—tiny feathered thing—I mewed for my husband in a white recovery room. The nurse who brought the wrong man apologized. She did not understand that any hand or wing would do.
When Mad Libs had blanks for gerunds instead of dumbed-down -ing verbs, we caressed wood pulp paper with pencils, erasing our answers to play again and again, stroking becoming licking becoming sucking becoming fucking, you becoming a junior whose boyfriend dies cheating, drowning after careening drunk into a flooded creek, the other girl escaping, you learning to fall in love with the pain.
When my parents split, he got the projector and she got the slides. Now both are mine. On our living room wall, I meet my college-girl mother in black & white: swept-up hair, unfiltered smile. Shot through the lens of love, my husband assumes. Perhaps. But I know my father loved gadgets—he was likely swooning over f-stops and shutter drag. And here I am, unprepared for sole custody of their past.
Erin Murphy is author or editor of thirteen books of poetry and nonfiction, including two collections forthcoming in 2022: Human Resources (Salmon Poetry) and Taxonomies (Word Poetry). Her awards include the 2021 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award, The Normal School Poetry Prize, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net award. She is Professor of English at Penn State Altoona and serves as Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review.