“In the dirt the sister lay down and with her arms and her legs the sister made the shape of a bird in the dirt and the sister stood up very slowly from the shape she had made in the dirt so that she would not rub away the lines of the bird she had drawn and the sister turned around to look at the bird and to say to the bird, “You can get up and fly,” and when the bird did not fly the girl went to make another bird in the dirt with her arms and legs and when Marcelle came out to see that the sister was close by, Marcelle saw the birds in the dirt and at first Marcelle thought that they were shadows of birds flying in the sky, and when Marcelle looked up and just saw the gray sky with no birds flying in it, Marcelle knew that her Tian, her daughter and the sister of the baby, had made the flying birds.”
(A sentence from the story “The Year” which appears in The Quarterly #3 and as far as I know does not appear in any one of Yannick Murphy’s books).
What I love most about this sentence is what I love about most sentences I love, be they the sentences that I love most that belong to a writer such as Yannick Murphy or to the few other writers whose sentences also do to me what the sentences of Yannick Murphy do (i.e. the sentences that are Noy Holland’s sentences, or the sentences that are Pamela Ryder’s sentences, or the sentences that are the sentences of Dawn Raffel or Victoria Redel) which is this: they make out of words worlds made out of the sounds that words make and when I walk away from these words, which is hard for me to walk away from such words, from such cadence, I am made to carry these sounds with me, am made to make a space for such words, such music, in my own head—oh the voices, the voices—and when I walk and when I walk away I am made to be and to walk in tune with something new, something I haven’t yet heard before, in the case of this exquisite sentence made from the mouth and the ear and the hands of Yannick Murphy, it is the sound of such words as bird, as sister, as dirt, and the words in this long river of a sentence are made to be more than what most other words are in most other stories, though this story is not like most other stories, for they seem to be words that I almost do not know, they are words from some lost vocabulary, some dialect long forgotten, even though they are words that we all know well, these words, such simple words they are: bird, sister, dirt.
Peter Markus is the author of When Our Fathers Return to Us as Birds, Bob, or Man on Boat, We Make Mud, and The Fish and the Not Fish, and Inside My Pencil: Teaching Poetry in Detroit Public Schools. Other books include Good, Brother and The Singing Fish, and The Moon Is a Lighthouse. His stories have appeared in such journals as Big Other, Black Warrior Review, Massachusetts Review, Quarterly West, Alaska Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, Bomb, New York Tyrant, Unsaid, among others.