Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower by Ronald J. Murray
Bizarro Pulp Press (June 2020)
64 pages; $12.95 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Ronald J. Murray is a fiction writer and poet living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His short fiction has appeared in various anthologies. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association. When he is not writing, he can be found drinking entirely too much coffee and staying awake far too late. His newest dark poetry collection is Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower, a collection of visceral mythic and grisly body horror poetry.
The first section in Murray’s collection is “A Crow Crowned King, A Corpse Flower King,” which seems to tell the mythic tale of a dead king and queen coming back to life for one final, bloody, erotic dance that is blessed by a crow. The lines in this section are gruesome — ” And danced with grace, bare-fleshed, incensed,/In sprays of jugular rain” or “Where joints tore free from tendon binds,/Your fingers explored my marrow.” — as Murray shifts in and out of the poems. Furthermore, he occasionally taps into some euphonic and formal elements that propel these poems and make for some rich reading, despite a few questionable editorial decisions. Overall, it’s a strong start to a dark collection.
The next section, “Fever to Boil the Sea,” follows the crow image into another wasteland. Now the crow is on pilgrimage to the sea to find the Cetea of Greek mythology. This section seems focused on themes of survival and regret. There’s less body horror here, and more Gothic longing:
The room is dark,
Filled with stale air.
My eyes can never sleep.
I should have kept going,
Beneath the night that dressed me
in a new suit of black
And the rain that washed away
The muck that clogged my skin.
These sorts of lines aim to be more haunting, and while there is the occasional lazy metaphor or cliché, Murray strives to keep the language fresh and dark for his readers.
The final section is “A Return to the Nest, A Realization,” which continues with the crow metaphor and closes the book nicely. At this point, there seems to be a post-modern, albeit dark, acceptance of one’s existence. The speakers in these poems are resigned to their fate, and are actually finding purposes to live when none present themselves. There’s a resiliency in this section that comes through in lines like
My rule is internal, and
I am not the carrion.
And the sky is wide and mine.
I only need fly and
Take it with my talons.
that speak to persistence in the face of a cruel and meaningless existence. It’s a solid energy to close the book on, and while not all of the poems in this section are perfectly crafted, the enthusiasm is present.
Ronald J. Murray’s Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower is not a perfect book of horror poetry. There are some amateur mistakes in these poems and some lines with weak language. However, there are enough strong pieces here to outweigh the weaker ones, and the overall arch of the book is strong. Fans of horror poetry should enjoy this collection and the potential of this newer voice in horror poetry.