Category Archives: Ripe Poetry

For Jane


This poem is dedicated to Jane, who asked me write about being incarcerated.


I didn’t want to write this poem.
Even as I stand here right now, performing this piece, exactly like you asked me to,
I feel uncomfortable.
I don’t like to tell other people’s stories.
I don’t want to appropriate someone else’s struggle and pretend that it is my own,
And I don’t want to receive accolades for appearing enlightened when I’m just as in the dark as everyone else.
When you begged me to write a poem about you being incarcerated, I immediately told you to write your own poem because your words would mean so much more than my own,
But you refused.
You said, “No one will listen to me and besides, I’ll be dead in a year, anyway.”


How do I tell them the story of your life? How do I get them to remember you like I will always remember you?
They will never see the deep lines around your eyes and mouth. They will never smell the cigarettes you couldn’t stop chain-smoking, or see the yellow nicotine stains on your fingertips. They will never hear your throaty laugh, see your long, shiny black hair, or see the incredible beadwork that you meticulously created and showed me with such shy pride.
You are more than a statistic – you are an actual person, with hopes and dreams, and a self-deprecating sense of humour. You are more than your illness, more than your addiction, more than your crimes.
You were abused as a child. You are burdened by mental illness and poverty. You are homeless. You have children that were apprehended by Family and Children’s Services. You are racialized. You are alone.
Crack, heroin, alcohol – your “drugs of choice”…these are your coping mechanisms. Sex work is how you get them. You’re not Julia Roberts being lavished with attention by Richard Gere. How many snowy streets have you strolled hoping for strange men to pick you up in their cars, just so that they could use your body and you could get some crumpled bills?
You told me that your best friend, who was also a sex worker, was murdered and her body parts were scattered across the city in dumpsters. You believe that it is only a matter of time before you are next.


Sometimes, when the sky stretches wide and blue above me,
I think about prison and what it must have been like for you there.
You would miss the sky, you told me. You missed weather and starlight and the sunshine on your shoulders.
You said that you had spent more time in prison than out, and that prison was the only life that you understood.
You liked the routines and the accessibility of food, but you hated the lack of privacy.
You called prison “timeless time” – a place where every minute lasted an eternity.


How do I describe what it was like for you to be incarcerated?
Do I tell them about that time you told me that you must be an animal because you keep getting locked up like one?
Do I tell them that you still had access to all your drugs of choice?
Do I tell them how you had a greater sense of community with your fellow inmates than you do on the outside?
Do I tell them that if you don’t end up dead first, you’ll be back inside those concrete walls?
Do I tell them that this system isn’t working – that it’s failing you and so many others?


I didn’t want to write this poem for you. I didn’t want to put words in your mouth. But most of all, I didn’t want to face the reality that you are either back in prison or that you are dead, and I’ll never know whatever became of you, one more person stuck in an unjust justice system.
I wonder if in your dreams you fly free with the wind in your face.
I want to picture you like that
Twirling and laughing with your hands stretched wide, calling your children to you
Years of sorrow and hardship melting in the drizzle of spring rain.


I wrote this poem for you at last.
Fly free.

Is this your image? If so, let me know so that I may credit you.


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This work, “For Jane” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Heart Daughter


They told me that you were born missing most of your brain,
But to me, you were perfect.
I’ve fallen in love dozens of times, but nothing prepared me for the way it felt to hold you in my arms and look into your grey-blue eyes:
Calm, still oceans that harboured secrets no one would ever discover.

You were not a child of my body, but you were a child of my heart.

Born to teenage parents who had underestimated the challenge of raising a special needs child, I cared for you in the hospital for the month after your birth while you waited for a foster home.
Doctors and nurses focused on how you wouldn’t live past ten,
But all I could focus on was the way you looked at me whenever I cradled you and sang,
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”


What does it mean when a child is born imperfect?
Some people take uncreased sheets of paper just to fold them into shapes called “art”.
Some people pour gold into fractured pottery just to celebrate the beauty of splintered history.
If art and history can be subjective, then who am I to behold the creation of Almighty G-d and call it anything less than spectacular?
You, you are made of the magic of stars and cells, angels and organisms, fairy dust and molecules,
Spackled together by two people who didn’t know how to raise a child who wasn’t like other babies,
And I, I was the witness to this messed-up miracle of a sweet baby girl born imperfectly perfect, perfectly imperfect.
All I could do in your presence was hope that I could kiss you enough for both our lifetimes whenever I cradled you and sang,
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”


Your name is a song that dances on my lips in the arabesque of a half-smile or the brise of laughter in a quiet moment.
Time races by in sunrises and sunsets,
Almost as fast now as those hours at the hospital where I counted your fingers, toes, and eyelashes.
Somehow, I have ended up loving you without you much longer than I loved you while knowing you.
The day I handed you to a woman I didn’t know to take you away to a place that I’ll never know, knowing that I’ll never see you again,
I sat down on the pavement outside the hospital and cried in the autumn rain.
They say that motherhood is momentous because it is choosing to forever have your heart walk around outside of your body,
And in that moment, as the raindrops beat down, I became a true mother.


You are my Heart Daughter, and wherever you go, I will always long for you.
Every night before I go to sleep, I cradle all my love and hope and wishes for you in my arms and I never forget to sing,
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

Chloee passed away February 22nd, 2018. I will never forget her.


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This work, “Heart Daughter”, by Beth Murch,  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



crime scene

crime scene

body is
crime scene

tape and chalk
a story
my mouth never could


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This work, “C.S.I.” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Afternoon Thoughts


I sometimes wish
you would reach across the miles
to somehow smooth over
mountains of wrongdoings
oceans of salty tears
shine sun rays
on the tropical rainforest of my heart
where the colours just haven’t been as bright
since the day you went away



I remember
my fingernails once left bloody crescents on my palms
my jaw ached from gritting my teeth until they were broken
your empty promises split my skin like the edges of paper
and then
I remember
how much I enjoy sleeping through the night now

But still


wish I could hold your hand and giggle once more
wind up at the bottom of another coffee pot together
whisper secrets and promises anew
while writing poems about ghosts that linger in the shadows
wish that I was still the one you turned to at 4 AM
wind up choking when I hear your voice
whisper your name to remember the taste of it in my mouth
while writing poems about a love that never made sense to me



pretend that I never happened
only speak my name as a curse
only look my way when time stands still
only hope to keep me broken-hearted
like a child.
But friendships are not like playgrounds
and long after the bell rings
you are going to remember me
if only to sing yourself to sleep
if only to hold yourself when you are lonely
if only to remind yourself of a time when you had a home



I remember your name when I light my Shabbos candles
because no matter what, I still pray that you are blessed
I may not be able to look at the pictures yet
but the memories are never far from my mind
I will always look for you in a crowded room
I will always answer the phone when you call.
My heart will always be full of you.

I will see you in another lifetime
where our history together will be as light as butterfly wings
and we will be together again.


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This work, “Afternoon Thoughts” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




I never write poetry anymore.
I don’t remember how to.
I remember red wine and clove cigarettes.
I remember singing Tom Waites at 4 AM.
I remember counting syllables like a greedy child counts coins for candy.
Words don’t come easily now.
There’s only the hum of the refrigerator for company.

I only sleep with escape artists.
I pretend that I am not awake whenever lovers quietly leave
so that I never have to say goodbye.
They pretend that they will see me again.
We pretend that red wine stains come out of white winter coats.
Nothing is final –
Except my unwelcome solitude.

My special talent is turning inside-out.
Let me show you my entrails.
This is my heart.
These are my veins.
These are the hungry ghosts that play between my organs.
I call them my emotions.
They don’t call me anything at all.


Is this your image? Please let me know so that I may credit you.

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This work is licensed, “Untitled” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Under A Bushel


They say love is a light:
To let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,
But the bulb in my kitchen has been burnt out for a week now,
And my apartment is sitting in half-darkness most of the time.
I spend my days writing poems that no one will read,
Waiting for a phone call that never happens,
Creating origami flowers from letters that never come.
I’m hungry for something other than potatoes and rice,
The ache inside me like a sinkhole –
Swallowing up people, places, and things
As if nouns could ever satisfy the longing.
This kind of sadness requires adjectives.


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This work, “Under A Bushel” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


There’s A Country & Western Song In Here Somewhere


They say that when someone’s been stabbed
it’s safest to leave the knife blade in the wound.
The weapon acts as a plug to keep blood in the body,
and additional organ damage can be caused by pulling out the sharp edge.

In the movies, the hero pours whisky on his own pierced flesh,
grimacing as the alcohol stings his slash marks –
makeshift antibiotics for his barely-there medical care.
Hypovolemic shock never sets in before the bad guys are brought to justice.

I’ve been staggering around with a knife stuck inside my body.
Even though my muscles have stopped trying to force the foreign object out,
and my skin has grown over the place where the blade entered me,
I can never forget the feeling of being punctured.

There’s a tourniquet around my heart, Baby,
But I’m still bleeding out over you.
I pour bourbon down my throat but it doesn’t heal the nerve damage.
I think this time the bad guys just might win.

bloody-yellow-melon-killed-by-knife-wound-with-blood-metaphor-stock-photo Stock Photo.

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This work, “There’s A Country & Western Song in Here Somewhere” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.