“How to Be Together” by Abby E. Murray

Abby E. Murray


Ask a second grader.
Mine stood at the top
of the stairs, masked,
looking down at me
in the basement, masked,
unable to hold her,
my skin white-green
and slick with virus.
I am teaching her
how to be separate,
how not to hug me
until the doctor says.
When she told me
she missed my arms
so much her knees
wobbled, her eyes
were two wet pebbles
dropped in a gutter.
For what do pebbles
give thanks? How does
a gutter say grace?
I couldn’t even ask
these questions aloud,
so how she discovered
the answer is a mystery
to me: she ran outside,
around the house
to the basement window.
All I had to do was
open it, and that was,
in fact, all I could do.
She found two stones
in the yard, one smaller
than the other, both
of them rough and cold,
then hopped them toward
each other on the bricks
of the window ledge:
uno, dos, aquí. Here we are,
she said, this is you
and this is me, together.
Simple and exact.
People, you know you
are not a child anymore
when love shocks you.
I laid there, amazed
by how much light
two chunks of rock
could give, dazed
by the feast of blankets
glowing around me.
Each shallow breath
was a divine bite.
My daughter was
curled up with me
outside in the late
November sun,
which becomes a new
shade of gold even
on grey surfaces, even
when you think
those colors couldn’t
be further apart.

from Poets Respond
November 23, 2021


Abby E. Murray: “This is a poem of thanksgiving—maybe not so much in honor of the holiday as in celebration of people who know how to be together through a crisis. In my case, I’m thinking of my seven-year-old daughter. Although I’m vaccinated, I contracted Covid and it’s been brutal. I wrote this on a good day.” (web)

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