“Funny How” by Abby E. Murray

Abby E. Murray


When some Americans hear
about a man-made calamity
unfolding in Britain, it takes
a hot minute to remember
there is no such thing as
a country that is simultaneously
one sovereign nation
and your sophic mother:
older than you and, at one time,
so powerful you didn’t realize
she was human. For example,
on the morning after
Boris Johnson’s hair
became Prime Minister,
you opened the newspaper
like it was your front door
and you’d just heard
shave & a haircut
knocked into it at 3 AM
only to find your mom there,
drunk, puking violently
into the potted fern.
Had it been anyone else—
a neighbor, a friend,
even a stranger—
you would have known
how to act right away,
but because it was who it was,
you stood and stared,
It took a full year of following
British government proceedings
to recognize the same
carousel music that plays
in the U.S. Capitol, a tune
we’ve egotistically grown to think
originated in the States,
another invention
of our founding fathers,
our long dead brothers
whose courage compelled us
to test whether farts are flammable,
whose bravery urged us
to rollerblade off the roof
of the garage as soon as
we were allowed to play
unsupervised. Even now,
on our shared and ferociously
warming planet,
a heat we continue to kindle
while knowing it will consume us all
surprises me by turning up
in London, where it is unanticipated,
brutal, and the seeming fault
of a belligerent sun,
as if the disappointed parent
of my country as I know it
was still somehow above
climate change until now,
until my child mind
perceived her here
on the front page of the Times,
unable to work or get out of bed
for anything other than water.
The first time I saw
my own mother sweat,
I marveled at how she still
smelled only of lotion
and Calvin Klein Eternity,
as usual, her glow unlike
the pubescent body odor
I seemed to carry just by waking up
and living. It wasn’t until
my thirties that I began to tell
myself—sometimes out loud—
that my mother was capable
of the same recklessness I was
because I needed to believe it
in order to know independence,
needed to say it
to that part of me who,
no matter how old she gets,
still just rolls her eyes,
slams the door in my face.

from Poets Respond
July 24, 2022


Abby E. Murray: “I was talking to a friend the other night about how, whenever anything painful or sad happens on a national scale in Britain, there’s a part of me that is, for a fraction of a second, surprised—like I’ve grown to expect ineptitude and blatant disregard for humanity in the U.S., and seeing it in Britain is about as unsettling as seeing my mother drunk (which is, for the record, about as likely as me seeing the Queen herself show up at my house in the wee hours, blitzed). Even heat waves brought about by man-made climate change, which affect us all, are being spoken about as wholly unanticipated in Britain. So I’m kind of making fun of my sense of problematic surprise, even as I move to correct it.” (web)

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