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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 30, 2016.
About this Poem 

“You know, you drive up to Big Sur thinking you’re going to relax. Being alone is a little hike down to the secret beach and being alive is like a performance piece that no one will see but you. How fantastically pointless! The ocean flickers, your match flame flickers and then goes out. It’s really not a moment you can share. You feel like your whole life is on repeat here. You don’t want to, but you care about this intensely, and you don’t really understand why.”
—Miguel Murphy


The Sunlight

You wouldn’t know it could feel so redundant—
the wolfish starlings plunder the grass
and nothing burns. Big Sur. We came here to rest.
The coast, a color. The thought of nothing,
the blue middle of my life—
                                                     A cliff side and a footpath
down to the small beach. And fire, there
a cold wind. Long waves the whole year—restless,
leafy and metallic,
                                       the brightness of ash. The sunlight
like something from Tarkovsky, one pointless, small ambition
in which passion turns into a terrifying tenderness. Deep
cargo in the hull; heartache. And somehow you knew
you should light the match, like a person condemned
to whom the starlight is
another brief monument to what
                                                                     is fallible. Your life,
little fireling, little warlike starling, flickering indignantly, all
erotic umbrage. Broken wing in my hand. Pathological, shy
flame, I will care for you. Little shape of my fate, my
certain failure. What
                                   is desire, if not
this burden. Dearth and glut
cupped in your hands: wild, deadheaded, and blue.

Copyright © 2016 by Miguel Murphy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Miguel Murphy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Miguel Murphy

Miguel Murphy

Miguel Murphy is the author of Detainee (Barrow Street Press, 2016).

by this poet


This new Chinese New Year we were in a film
Holding hands and daring each other
To close our eyes in the surrounding mayhem
On one beautiful hell of a dancefloor
In memory, in black-and-white
Two strangers clutching in a crowd. Like close-ups

By Fellini, the drunk midget and the

The psychotherapist has a sad dove 
dying in his eye. He looks at the light
like wood holding fire in it
reflected in small caves 
and tells me there is a window where love weeps
over what it cannot know. The dove's

trembling, flickering like a sun alone
in the dark nest of his face, and the psychotherapist