Matthew Murrey


In first grade the sisters told us
of Cain and Abel heaping their fires,
hoping the smoke would make God
smile. Abel’s rose, but Cain’s
hugged the ground like fog
which made him smolder, hot
to shed his brother’s blood—odd
story to tell a roomful of kids.

In ninth grade, home alone, I found
my sister’s pack of Marlboro Lights,
pulled one out—sweet nail—and lit it.
I sat by the fireplace so I could blow
that grey, blue smoke up the flue
where it would rise over the roof, to God
knows where. A dizzy, sexy buzz
fogged my brain, felt damn good.

Sometimes my wife and I come home
and smell that skunky, pungent odor
from behind their door. Godlike,
the law condemns, but we turn blind eyes.
They’re growing up, those two, our sons.
They were boys once, and bitter foes,
but now they smoke together. Time
burns many ways. Their childhood
has passed; we smell it, burned to ash.


Matthew Murrey‘s poems have appeared in various journals such as Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, and Rattle.  He received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry a number of years ago, and his first book manuscript is seeking a publisher.  He is a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where he lives with his partner.  Their sons live in the Pacific Northwest. His favorite sweet is homemade waffles with butter and honey; he makes them every weekend.

 … return to Issue 9.3 Table of Contents.