Christopher Brean Murray

An Adage

It’s a hot day. The sky
is an unblemished blue.
The grain sacks are stacked
to the rafters. I sport my usual attire:
a khaki pant, a white shirt,
black shoes. I part the curtains
and embark on a path that reaches
so far that one no longer knows
whether the treaties apply,
whether the condor will descend
to scavenge the remains
of the man who expired in the heat.
I swipe a wasp from his cracked lips.
I drag him through the burdock
into Jamestown. The affluent
have sealed their shutters,
and against this I revolt
by spitting on the scalding statue
glaring over the sleeping village
toward the pale red hills
in the distance. Striding
toward the hills, like adhering
to one’s philosophy, imbues one
with zest, and, in this heat,
a giddy violence that makes me
swat thistle with the riding crop
I stole from the statue.
It’s enough to make one
coin an adage, or kiss the sun.
It’s enough to make one
build a fire and melt one’s candles
on the rocks, so I do that.
With the wax, I shape a replica
of the grackle that watches
from a branch. It has only
one eye. What happened?
A scuffle with his cohort
over abundant seed scattered
to the hard-packed earth?
The dead man, who has been
crawling beside me, rolls over,
flattening the wax bird.
He laughs. He shouts
and weeps. I fashion him
a splint for his shattered ankle.
I wrap it with twine
and indulge in the cigarette pack
rolled into the sleeve of his t-shirt.
I’m glad he’s alive.
I hope to reap the rewards
of our mutual understanding.
Once I saw him blast a hive
and advance right into the swarm.

Christopher Brean Murray’s book, Black Observatory, was chosen by Dana Levin as the winner of the 2021-2022 Jake Adam York Prize. It will be published by Milkweed Editions in 2023. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Washington Square Review, and other journals. He lives in Houston.