Boys Running Into the Surf at Lake Tanganyika

—photograph by Martin Munkacsi, ca. 1930

I give you the water.

I’ll take it.

But I’ll beat you to it.

Waves follow rules:
swell, rise, break.

I saw a photograph by your father
of three black boys running into

Water, sun, naked
fun. The light’s game,
the movement, the order
and disorder—that lone hand
off to the left side.

Headlong, footsplash
on sand, into the breaking
wave’s bright froth, into nothing
but their naked bodies—

that photograph was the spark
that set fire to the fireworks.
I suddenly understood
that photography can fix
eternity in a moment

muscle and grace and movement
here gather, and the wave of the moment
though it breaks, is fixed.


Note: the statements in italics are those of Henri Cartier-Bresson from an interview with Munkacsi’s daughter.



When you’re two
there’s a dinosaur,
a ten foot Tyrannosaurus,
out in the country
standing in someone’s yard
between a pond and the woods
and the nearby fields.

Strapped in your car seat,
you point and clap.
It’s there all summer:
hot noons, thunderstorms,
sunflowers and butterflies.
Come fall its teeth
are still bared
as flowers shrivel,
leaves turn yellow and red.
Even in winter it stands there
with its small front claws
and a cake of snow
on its wide, flat fiberglass head.

Come spring, when you’re three,
it’s gone. Where, oh where?
It’s gone. You’re three.
It’s gone forever.


Matthew Murrey’s work has appeared in various journals such as Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, and the North American Review, and he also has work forthcoming in Rhino and Rattle. He has received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and his first book manuscript, Shoot the Sky, is seeking a publisher. He worked as a mental health clinician for many years but is now a high school librarian. He lives in Urbana, Illinois with his partner; they have two sons.