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Mark Murphy

Night Soil


for Fawkeschen


Nothing could prepare the Baroness

for the deadly smog


with halos

            of sulphuric gas,


manure, cesspools, hand shakes.


No rain like the black

breathless rain

on Leicester Square


as she waits for her husband

with her ideas of love,

violence and the open society.




Now dressed for dinner, she smooths

her silk and silver bodice.

Tugs at her German day dress


as if Prussian propriety might hold sway

against potato blight

and back-street vendors, flogging

        dogs, cats,

rancid mutton to passing tenement trade.


Where the loan shark write off

and pawnshop philanthropy, cash in

        on bereavement,

as if to dodge tax, death

and bureaucratic merry-go-round.


Where child traffickers

and Drury Lane pimps, trade family

and silver spoons,

in the consumptive gin palaces

                        of Covent Garden.




How can she know how close

she will come to losing her mind,

             after arrival

and exile in Victoria’s London.

Only twelve hours off the night-boat.


Already pitted against

organ grinder, punisher, broom girl.

Thousands of hungry mouths. Mumping. Mutching.

Orphans, tails, and toffers

                driven mad

by hunger and cholera.


                            SO CAPITAL SINKS

sentient beings up to their necks

in the private cellars of human excrement.


Washes dirty money in the slops and spoils

              of industrial civilisation.

A Line of Her Own

Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.

                                     –Constantin Stanislavski


The artistic life is never free

from morbidity, or its stellar marriage

with melancholy and frustration


But no amount of talent can account

for misfortune, or the weight

of filial obligation


And even kindness and devotion

that baffle description

must have their upper limit




Hamlet fever aside – no budding actor

could turn a blind eye

to the excess


of Shakespearean hard luck

and human loss

that plague the extended family


Torn between her dying father and life

in the London theatre –

the pale and emaciated Thespian


would never make the big time in an age

before film acting

as the art of experiencing reality




Needless to say


as the art of representation


was never enough

for an actress

who neither forced, or faked it

January Glad Song


Just when you thought

things couldn’t get any worse,

the radiator

in the living room goes on the blink.


Not so easy writing a book

in the winter freeze;

especially when your breath slows

to a frozen whisper.


Now, fingers numb as you type,

prompting thoughts

of Eleanor Marx, born

into the slums of Victorian Soho


under the mocking eaves

of Dean Street, one unforgiving

            January dawn.




Here, our story begins…

Dreams of My Father

Thrice he broke the staff of the Versailles flag

hoisted on the barricade of the Rue de Paris.

                                           –Prosper Olivier Lissagaray




Where some men are weasels,

other men are bears

like the fire breathing Lissagaray –


Soldier of the Commune

Last man standing on the last barricade

in the Rue Ramponeau.




Little wonder, Eleanor Marx

courageously gave up

on her hymen, for the monumentally tortured,


weather-beaten French Adonis.

Alas, her heart

(being only her heart) no longer belonged


to daddy, which left the old sourpuss

spitting feathers.

Bereft at the loss of his alter-ego.




Certainly, ‘Lissa’ was the man

who most reminded Tussy of her father,

but the wild eyed,


moody exile, was still a man.

A world-weary man

who would throw down the gauntlet


at her feminist resolve.

To stick it out

and not become just another mom-to-be,

              at home on the range.

MAM melancholia.jpg

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.

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