For two of the most important men in my life

It's a big day to honor two of the men I love most in the world - Father's Day and Brian's birthday! I'm reprising the poems from 2013 - one I wrote for my husband and one I wrote for my dad. I love you both so much!

Brian on his birthday in Trim, Ireland - June 2016

Brian on his birthday in Trim, Ireland - June 2016

The Lottery



Ninety-two, ninety-three, I most remember   

As the winter a blizzard shut us in and we are   

Broke from a hard two years as newly wed  

Where the meager provision of being   

Student, employee, father for our first born

Son and now another one on the way, we've

Neither a degree nor cash. Dreams die in   

Fatigue and bank accounts give way as you and your    

Muscle and sweat and hope fall in to make   

A loss. We lived in two bedrooms down the   

Hallway from kind friends in their nice  

Neighborhood. Or that has all really   

Happened and we go to Johnson City where,   

Thanks to Rick Jindra and Steve Conroy,   

You get a job cleaning cars at Dependable   

Auto Sales. It’s all a backwards dream, a slog

To get a life and home before the next

Arrival of another son, your dogged days 

Of honor. A church acquaintance  

Has encouraged us that giving when we   

Don't think we have anything to give keeps the   

Scarcity of our mindset overwhelmed by

The bounty. I love the mentors, at least I   

Think I do, in their wisdom, their attempt   

To find ways for us to find a living from the WIC   

Office. Otherwise the early years seem   

Like a country music ballad. A stunned   

Twenty-something man runs from school to work   

And home up three floors of the apartment house on Frederick Street,

Chasing a toddler with the second-born in hot

Pursuit where otherwise you sat up late writing  

Required lines, planning for your next degree  

And child, a daughter. We were waiting to get our   

First salary and listening to the Yankees win the pennant

On the radio. You worked, you dreamed, you wrote the   

Fifty-two pages of your thesis, the new baby  

Arriving near the end. I slept on the couch and  

healed and nursed and cried while you stayed up

Thirty-six hours straight, determined. Then that   

Summer there is the day of the great Teaching Job   

Offer, we move to Conklin -- Richard T. Stank

Middle School, beloved George Schuster  

Down the hall. You read “Goodnight   

Moon” to your children and Teddy Roosevelt

To your students, and Rick Patino for the team.   

Then it’s winter again. My water breaks   

And we head back to Lourde's Hospital   

And we welcome another daughter, and   

Sometime just about then you must have almost   

Seen yourself as others see or saw you,   

people like Dr. Jagger and Scott Gravelding, but could not quite   

Accept either their affirmation

Or their equally anointed naming. Uncertain,   

Afraid, you kept at it. A few years later

Crisis and pain and forgiveness fall in to make   

A calling. You lived into yourself, a man named. 

You are still the father, student, teacher, much the same,

but now also mentor, pastor, friend.

Now you are happier, I think, and older.

Those of us lucky enough to know you say

That we have won the Brian Murphy lottery.

Adapted from a poem by ROBERT CREELEY

Dad and his trusty boat in the Adirondacks, Summer 2013

Dad and his trusty boat in the Adirondacks, Summer 2013

The Invitation


To pull the metal hook from the fish's mouth

my father focused all attention on his catch.

I watched his puckered face and not the fish's.

With only a few finger sweeps , he’d removed

the iron sliver I thought it'd die from.

I can’t remember the words,

but hear the speechless motion, a creak

of row lock, a slap-slap of water beside us.

And I recall his hands,

two knuckled planes, one wedding band's

glint in the sun,

a flame of benediction

he raised above my head.

Had you rowed out with us that morning 

you would have thought you'd seen a man

fishing, a brown-haired girl sprawled across the bow,

book cover shielding the sun's flame.

Had you followed that boat

you would have arrived here,

where I pause at every creekbed.

Look how I search for trout, bass, bullhead

to find the ones that got away.

Watch as I scan every water field for ripples.

I was seven when my father

took me on the St. Lawrence,

and I did not fear the great steamships.

Slamming within their water wake, I did not think

Metal that will bury me,

christen our aluminum rowboat journey,

Poor Fisherman and His Daughter.

And I did not lift my face into the spray and cry,

We're going to be killed!

I did what a child does

when she’s invited into adventure. I leaned into the wind and

I trusted my father.


adapted from a poem by LI-YOUNG LEE

p.s., Dad, here's a playlist of songs that make me think of you every time I hear them - favorite albums we used to spin in your office, or later on, rewind again and again in the cassette player, and dance to the soundtrack in the living room. A few we sang in church, and a couple I can't hear without hearing your tenor voice picking out the harmonies. You'll recognize right away the tunes I can't hear without imagining your - shall we say - unique dance moves. At least one of songs, I'll always remember as the tune you I fell asleep to while you strummed the melodies on the guitar in the living room at night. There's one (still obnoxious) one you made us listen to first thing in the morning before school. I think you'll figure out which songs go with which memories alright.