‘Settlement’ and other poems by Lizz Murphy


Here for $600 you can buy
a purebred Siberian husky pup
a digital display microwave
a proheat all rounder vacuum
a freestanding cooker
a mini laptop
a man’s bike barely used

There for $600 you can buy
a 12 year-old girl not used at all

© Lizz Murphy
— from Six Hundred Dollars (PressPress 2010)

Through a Child’s Eyes

She is a child whose play eyes
settle on the fine grains
sweetly falling through sugar fingers

She is a child whose factory eyes
settle on a shatter of sequins
like falling fire or a stitched up sky

When night settles one girl will close
her eyelids the other will want to tear hers off
Here a forest will grow each leaf a child’s eye

© Lizz Murphy
— previously published in Cordite Poetry Review #43 Masque
— from Shebird (PressPress forthcoming)

The Morrigan

The Morrigan’s throat-hackles
riffle air her baneful call
forewarning strife
cordoning off territory

She hitches up her raven lips
her tongue and gum reckoning
Her wrap is a fox a skulking road
I know something of this woman

Her black river sheen
one fallen feather
a bowl of brine
She is the washer at the ford

The fetters are cast
The other bird on its back
wings extended in abdication
Its arching neck its thrashing bill
its adversary treading liver

I unwrite my skin
a black crow underscore
I know this line
this unravelling line
two cups of blood one foot
on either side of the river

© Lizz Murphy
— previously published Abridged: Torquemada



That settlement on the lowland the noise of them chittering and squawking Those single-note whistles sucked back unutterables everyone scattering One so much less agitated sailing wings draped like arms around someone else’s half-hearted shoulders legs trailing absentminded the feet chewed stick ends The choughs flap and stretch nettled silk each fan-fold a clearly outlined breath Two magpies flee to another patch the first knows its song well the other repeats her last phrase on a seven second delay like someone who can’t contain thought or an unacquainted tongue And then the falcon flaunting his high authority the rearing sun his silver edged wingspan limbs extended his binding decision his bite to the spine

© Lizz Murphy
— previously published Rabbit: A Journal of Non-Fiction Poetry

Myth Breaker

She knew instinctively when she was twelve
saw it in his eyes at fifteen was middle-aged
before she understood what it was she knew
what it was she had witnessed

It was that country of not knowing
that they colonized


Bushlark hands
empty swirl and rinse
fresh-baked terracotta

I hear the slide of leaves
as olive residue separates
reveals fine scarlet threads

Here I am with a worriment
I tell anyone listening in
the hills collapsing into themselves

The adult rosellas have parasites
They are snips of red cotton
the sweepings after dressmaking

The unsewn moments
of this warm
loose-mouthed afternoon

Earlier we heard the blackbird
playing flutes from the spire
of its conifer cathedral

That melodic intruder
its precise tangerine beak
scissoring at the sky

And the raiding currawongs
with their priestly wings
and hook-beak frenzy

Sweetmeat hatchlings
the tear of earth
the choir of keening magpies

Then the silent flyover
Younger red-green natives
captured only in the surprise
of transitory shapes

Swift tattoos across sparse lawn
the grey grill of grevillea
the ridged roof robust in all seasons
its iron whisperings coaxing in a cold front

How long till the blackbird is
back foraging finding invertebrates
in undergrowth shrinking into itself

How long since a fledgling
its feathers the stain of tended soil
runs an unsteady length of broken board

Or a juvenile flying the shortest of spans
flagging gutter to slumping branch
And game again on the verandah
launches itself in a gay splatter

Its stiff limbs like poking fingers
its panting spotted breast
pressing a path through space

First empty nest then empty distance
You recognize the wind of chance
in their jubilant eyes

They are full of the new life
have found their own un-compassed way
Just like you told them they would
Like you told them they should

It has caught my generation short
the skin of it settling over the migratory pass
Streamflows knotting around long unmoving stones
shucking their occupant souls together

They have the vacant knock of brass
The bell strike of hammer on nail
The scuff of spade entering sod
The rasp of the smallest of the deaths

© Lizz Murphy
— from Walk the Wildly (Picaro Press 2011; reprint: Ginninderra Press, forthcoming)

DSCN0433_2_2Lizz Murphy has published 12 books of different kinds. Her seven poetry titles include Portraits: 54 Poems and Six Hundred Dollars (PressPress), Walk the Wildly (Picaro), Stop Your Cryin (Island) and Two Lips Went Shopping (Spinifex). Recent poems can be found online in Abridged (Ire), Blue Pepper, Cordite Poetry Review, Right Now, Shot Glass (US), Verity La, Wonderbook of Poetry and a number of print anthologies. She is widely published in Australia and overseas. Born in Belfast she moves between Binalong in rural NSW and nearby Canberra ACT.

Lizz’ awards include: 2011 Rosemary Dobson Poetry Prize (co-winner), 2006 CAPO Singapore Airlines Travel Award, 1998 ACT Creative Arts Fellowship for Literature, 1994 Anutech Poetry Prize. Special mentions include: Highly Commended – 2013 Blake Poetry Prize; finalist – UK’s 2013 & 2014 Aesthetica Poetry Competitions. She sometimes blogs at A Poet’s Slant