“Phantom Limb” by Abby E. Murray

Abby E. Murray


You say it is amazing what Afghans can build
and I picture them approaching your outpost at night
like gods who have been summoned,
shaken loose from the mountains.
They unravel coils of metal wrapped around gravel
and earth, HESCO bastions meant to absorb shrapnel,
take wires away wound around their arms
elbow to shoulder, and the next morning
you find a fence with a swinging gate
staked around a patch of watermelon vines
so beautiful it reminds you of home.
You say they can build anything
if they are given enough wire, the hood of a car,
a curtain, some water. Across the ocean,
I know I am not a builder. I’ve hammered myself
into your side, useful as a phantom limb.
I see everything you see and do nothing
except remind you where you left me:
every morning you find a deep well
and look into it and wave until I wave back.

from Rattle #47, Spring 2015

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Abby E. Murray: “I’d like to say I started writing poetry because it called to me and demanded to be written, that it recognized my voice somehow like a lost dog and I brought it home to love it for what it was. The truth is, I had too many talented sisters, and I was no good at softball, dance, violin, singing, or track. I starting writing poetry because it was the only thing in the house that was mine and I refused to give it up. Today, of course, I write because I must.”

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