St. Jerome Writing (1605) by Miguel Murphy 

By Miguel Murphy 

St. Jerome Writing (1605), Caravaggio


Memento mori as apology
for assaulting the lawyer
Pasqualone, earning him
Papal favor! There, in his brow,
not Lear, let’s say, but
Hamlet, if he’d survived
to annotate his latest
on guts, tears, and semen:
Some Notes on Treatment
as Prevention, in which
he’d snigger, Don’t
eat the malus.
pate. What appears His stylus,
paused and feathered.
Thumb, forefinger (he needs
a manicure) that same
hand in the anecdote removed
thorn from lion’s paw,
curing it. Sometimes,
I can’t get in the catheter,
said my friend angrily after
the plane crash paralyzed him.
That year, another:
Stage 4 Pancreatic,
metastasized. As for
his long delay, “No mortal has
ever known what Jerome is
ignorant of,” St. Augustine
wrote. It seems ludicrous
at this age to translate
the Vulgate. Table, inkwell,
pate. What appears
pate. What appears serene is self-
loathing. Caravaggio—
evicted, in debt, scarred
from swordfight, in trouble!—
somehow managing to paint
his soma, this double
still-life, mind and bone:
red abundant
cloth spilling and skull
opposed, white, considering
the edge. An expression of
peacefulness, or dread.

One book remains closed.


Miguel Murphy’s third book of poetry, Shoreditch, is forthcoming (2021). He lives in Southern California where he teaches at Santa Monica College.