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Volume 15

Fables and Folklore - Fall 2015


Joseph Murphy

Written by
Joseph Murphy

Joseph Murphy is a professional editor and writer. He has had poetry published in a number of journals, including The Gray Sparrow, Pure Francis and The Sugar House Review. Murphy is also senior poetry editor for an online literary publication, Halfway Down the Stairs.


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The Shaman Meets With the First of the Dead


I preened my wings with a scented shell;
Nine days and nights, clutched
A summit’s razor-sharp peak; whispered
My spirits’ chants; watched souls
Billow from fissure and crag.

When a white-hot coal fell from my crest, wind
Filled my drum’s sails; the precipice
Became my vessel.

I soared star paths, wings wide: descending
To the darkened place.

When my keel’s timber cried, “The way is open,”
I entered the final port.

Even my spirits fell back
As I passed through a blood-filled gut;
Through ashes and rot.

Claws engraved on my hull took hold;
Steadied me

Beyond a bridge the width of a final word,
I found what others only imagine:
The shadowless one
Who was, yet is.

The being appeared at a pillar’s top; below,
Vastness without equal.

I offered a dream dreamt by a spirit my ancestors tamed.

The being grew brighter, churning
From form to form; some familiar, some grotesque.

When it became a drum’s skin, I drew it
Across my talons:

Began to beat in a cadence
It seemed I’d always known; sing
In languages
I’d never spoken.

The stronger my voice, the more I changed form: reeled
Through soul after soul,
Until my being
Became that one at the pillar’s top,
Sparks shooting
From all I sensed.


Photo by Moz Rauf



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