Guest Poet Ginger Murchison

Songs of the City

In stylish down-town churches
red-robed choirs
perfectly pitched to ornamental pipes
of richly ostentatious organs
pay homage from hymnals,
gifts In Memoriam.

Outside the stained glass windows,
in the belly of the city,
indigence intones
a chorus of cachophony
from hymnals scrawled
on graffiti'd walls.

Without the benefit of robe
the homeless solo a cappella
street songs of skeptics,
one note sliding against another
either up or down,
mostly down.

The clergy calls for contributions,
"relief for poverty," he says, and
the well-heeled congregation
concedes its pocket change,
and picks up its hymnal,
to sing another song.

Somewhere in the back a window
slams against November's chill.

November, 1997

Ginger Murchison 's Questions:

I want to make a statement about religious hypocrisy, but I don't want to offend. Is the poem realistic or too harshly critical?
Second Question: Is the alliterative quality of the poem overdone? And the close? Is the close overkill?

Correspond with Ginger Murchison at
with your ideas about this poem.


Melvin Butterfield
kissed me on the steps behind the school house
in a game of Truth or Dare,

and I went home somebody else,
but no one noticed

how I nightly watched the open window'd
billowings and flutterings
puff the wispy curtain,
then drop it back against the window sill
to be inhaled against the screen again

or stood nightgowned as that caught breath of air
exhaled on my thighs new loneliness,

or disappeared
into the cicadas' night song
droned in darkness.

Unconsciously, I tucked the secret of that kiss
into a sensual somewhere
that would hold remembrance.

I was thirteen,
and Melvin Butterfield never knew
what he had done.


I was thirteen,
and remembering,
still am.

November, 1997

Ginger Murchison 's Questions:

I am posting this poem with two endings because I do not want the ending to dumb down the poem, and I'm curious which the readers think works better. I think because it is narrative, this poem has more connecting words than my poems usually do. I'm worried that they are a distraction. What do the readers think?

Correspond with Ginger Murchison at
with your ideas about this poem.


Born into the same blast of prarie wind,
two sisters felt the chill of
frigid religiosity,
demanded compliance
of an insistent Kansas kitchen

where an uncompromising catechism
chisled derision
into frozen visages,
and frosty discouragement
coursed in icy veins.

In sunny reunion, face to face,
they separately together burst upon
the bitterness indelible
that tore like icy snowballs in their faces,

so much that in remembering,
snow crusted on their naked flesh again.

November, 1997

Ginger Murchison 's Questions:

Is the intensely personal occasion of the poem worthy of poetry at all?

Correspond with Ginger Murchison at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop