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3 Poems by Ryan Bender-Murphy

Pastoral Scene

Like it or not, the suit smells.
Hounds of fire run through forests
and trees squeal without their ponies.
The turnip cannot stall the car, but, by god, we love it.
I fold the parking lot and push the streets
into the oven. I forget they only rise in dreams.
The spines of razorbacks rise into the clouds.
The mermaids do not stand out. But I have the weekends off!
The hills are tripping into the stew.
I want to hold your poinsettia and then tell the ghost story.
What makes a mask fall into a fault line?
What keeps the prison guard from balancing his checkbook
near a Venus flytrap?
I chew a soda can and launch it into space.
I spill my kidneys out of my body—whatever gets the grass swaying.
Your purr exits
something the rabbits are straying from.
That pool beneath the canoe? It’s black-blue.
I hit the off buttons and laugh and laugh and laugh.
A unicorn impales me.


I had it hard in juvenile crime dramas.
My parents said it was just a phase: exploding
in the alleyway, chipping teeth every time I spoke.
Who would take me to prom? I had bowling balls
growing out of my eyes. I couldn’t pass the driver’s exam.
No wheels: no way to keep living.
The Nintendo days seemed eerie. What controller best fits into my mouth?
I would ask the fortuneteller at Spaghetti Warehouse.
She blinked and beamed
and her breath smelled like plastic. I hated her.
I took the train from my house
and then got off at a movie theater.
Afraid of destinations, I told myself You are the atmosphere.
When a computer stunned me with its spiral screensaver
when the colors changed from purple to dark green to teal
I called my parents and told them My job will be rerouting affection.
It’s true. One day you might chew a mint leaf
and then squat to mouth a doorknob.

Starting the New Job

In a former era, someone asks me in an interview
what a super-tongue might do.
Maybe open file cabinets, maybe provide coffee for immigrants.
Now: I watch the janitor absorb cleaning juice from a bucket
and rub himself over all surfaces and senior managers. Nobody else laughs,
still slurping sweat off of their hands.
I open my Poptart box, forgoing catered eggs and ham, and read
the instructions for completing a maze.

A co-worker spills coffee on the maze.

Tech support jams a tractor into my keyboard.

My boss tells me how many hands can press into a face
before it looks like something completely different.

During lunch, my body double holds me on a tray
and slowly I descend into his stomach.

Ryan Bender-Murphy lives in Austin, TX, where he teaches high school students critical reading and writing skills. He tries to frequent the green trails around the city, and, on one occasion, he saw a fox in an urban park. His poems also appear in Anti-, Dark Sky Magazine, elimae, NAP, Phantom Limb, and elsewhere.