Jason Morphew 


Does James Brown have a penis?


she asks from her pink toilet
holding in one hand a plastic idol 
of the singer and in the other its
corresponding microphone.
Well    hard to describe genitalia of the dead  
men have penises.  She gazes at Godfather
of Soul toward the eternal 
I take it from her trying to see:
paleblue moundrise paleblue crotch
nothing settled everything obscure
I give the legend back
and mysteriously announce
Men and boys have penises.  Increased nuance
same result daughter's eyes daring doll
to swerve as in videos
just ended.  As she stands I want to say 
The soul's outside the body 
the soul's outside the world 
after your bath when you're exhausted
and I drape you in a towel 
I am an attending flame 
but you are the blaze already 
roaring past my arms
my hands my name.






Being neither god nor government

offspring’s authority

not of right and wrong

but of left and right

having listened closely

to preachers’ warnings

about judging others

having been forgiven

by those I have not wronged

having been wronged

by the same forgivers

as they declared through triumphant tears

my forgiveness is not required

for they have forgiven themselves

(for the wrong wrongs)

actually believing

everyone is equal

I am no forgiver

more of a prayer

for a heaven

where forgiveness is escaped.



Anchor Baby


Two ghosts in purgatory
made an anchor baby. 
Because they’d been to grad school
the ghosts loved liminality
and had made a religion of it
which is to say they were afraid
equally of heaven and of hell.
There was something about grad school
those ghosts it attracted
made this religion logical—
fear of failure fear of success
fear of No fear of Yes
fear of Life fear of Death.
What fool wouldn’t want to stay
between forever what fool
thinks he takes a side
he can see? 

Hence the baby.

No one could say if making life
in such a world was good or evil.
This was the kind of ambiguity
kept the couple getting out of bed
in the afternoon which half
explains the baby’s doorway
conception fucking ghosts just un
naked Weekend at Bernie’s motorboat
audible beyond ancient midterms
slightly read partly stained
wholly graded. 

The birth like death
was touch
and go.
Dad worried Mom
wouldn’t be
liminal for long.
She survived delivery
to face a shock:

The baby was not a ghost
the baby was real.
Could a living thing remain in purgatory?
It was a contradiction of terms.
As purgatorians texted
the baby unfastened its frenulum
and mixed its mortality with 
eternity.  This amused
or terrified purgatorians according to depth
of phantom brainhole. 
No ghost’s superstition mattered
the baby was fine the baby was
reasonable.  Some aspects of purgatory it enjoyed—
stark expanses arbitrary fires—
some it didn’t (kisses made you colorblind). 
The parents were grateful
to the baby for letting them stay
lost ever more thoroughly confused. 

After some decades
the baby disappeared
and the parents passed into hell 
which after a while they had to admit
through gnashing gums
was preferable to wondering
what might have been
if they were real. 




Jason Morphew started life in a mobile home in Pike County, Arkansas; he holds a PhD in English Renaissance Literature from UCLA.  His book-length collection of poems dead boy is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil.  As a singer-songwriter he’s released albums on the labels Brassland, Ba Da Bing!, Max!, and Unread.