by Matthew Murrey

I calmed down in the dark, in Georgia
three hours out of Jacksonville,
eight hundred miles to go;
heard the hum of shafts and wheels,
the hymn of my young sons sleeping.
I turned on the radio, spinning
through music, sports, news, and talk
when I caught
horns, and cheering—Times Square.
An hour later I tuned in WGN
from the Tribune Tower, and heard it again
on my Central Time.  A new year:

I still have a job; my boys are alive
and able to run, read, and talk
back to me; my wife still wants me
to hold her when I wake her up;
my country is still waging war; and I hate
New Year’s Day the way I hate,
but couldn’t help watching,
Funniest Home Videos
which was on
at the barber shop where I was
sitting, getting my hair clipped off.
A father fooled his toddler into thinking
that he’d snatched the boy’s nose,
and kept it up until the kid started crying;
a teenager crashed his bike into a tree;
and two old people did something obscene
with their hips and a balloon.  I looked
in my lap at my hair which used to be
reddish-brown, but now is dark and salted
with gray—put that on a video and laugh.

I should’ve mentioned that the minivan
I was driving had a little leak in the gas tank:
drip, drip, drip...and another tiny leak
in the fuel rail under the hood, which
the mechanic said probably wouldn’t,
but could catch fire.  He put that in writing
and made me sign it when I insisted I couldn’t
spend four more days, or five hundred dollars
to have it fixed.  That’s why I had two
fire extinguishers in our little van,
and that’s why I was so wired and worried
for the first couple of hours of driving—
watching and sniffing and stopping
every twenty minutes to look underneath
the van and under the hood, and thinking
what a hell of a way it would be to end
the year two thousand and four: three of us
dying in some orange, grisly blaze of burning
fuel, plastic and sizzling flesh—like scenes
from the news, like the news from the war.
“A small risk,” the mechanic said.
“Five hundred bucks to fix it.”  Money to burn.


Matthew Murrey’s poems have previously appeared in journals
such as
Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, and Rattle.  He was the
recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry in 1995.  In addition to
writing, Murrey works as a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois.  
More information is available on his

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 12, Number 2
(Fall 2017)

Copyright © 2017
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.