November 26, 2017

Abby E. Murray

WHAT I DIDN’T SAY AT THE TABLE

I’m thankful for my pussy
my lady handle
my dainty doorbell
I’m thankful for folks
who say it will be fine
who tell me to try empathy
cousins who want me
to shake my chances
over history’s fire
I’m thankful for smoke
because it means
something’s in the oven
I’m thankful for my hair
which isn’t mine
and my rings
which aren’t mine
I’m thankful for the rods
and cones buried deep
behind my pupils
my color antennae
my flags that snap
in the wind of whiteness
I’m thankful for the ocean
and its quiet denouement
I’m thankful for the river
that swallowed up Celan
I’m thankful for starlight
because the moon won’t smile
I’m thankful for dampness
and mushrooms and mold
I’m thankful for wishbones
that grant nothing
I’m thankful for fat kings
and fat presidents
who inspire me to drink
sherry and port the way
dogs eat towels
making it last
drink rum the way
death comes back for the win:
a tremendous toast
a huge lump of ice
listen up fat kings
I’ve come for my briefcase
I’ve come for my handshake
this is empathy
this is me hiding words
under the bridges
under my tongue
this year I’m thankful
for street lamps and spray paint
this year I’m thankful
for my body in pieces:
the middle finger
the bitch face
the frozen shoulder

from Poets Respond
November 26, 2017

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Abby E. Murray: “A third of Americans dread political talk at Thanksgiving, but the past year has made me feel—strangely—more grateful and angry than I’ve ever been. I can’t stop seeing my country as a place prepared for our daughters, prepared for all those who have yet to claim their voices. I am worried. I am angry, and I’ve spent every day since the 2016 election acknowledging this and trying to heal, trying to protect those around me and acknowledge them. Maybe this is what it means to age. Maybe this is what it means to listen and hear. In either case, I wasn’t asked to say what I’m thankful for at the table this year. It was a very pleasant dinner.” (website)

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January 19, 2017

Abby E. Murray

POEM FOR MY DAUGHTER BEFORE THE MARCH

When your father says
he doesn’t want me to march
what he really means is
he doesn’t want you to march.

He doesn’t want me to march
because you will follow.
He doesn’t want you to march
by default, on my shoulders,

because you might follow
the songs of women
by default, on my shoulders,
raised on bread and justice.

Daughter, the songs of women
are the first words of children
raised on bread and justice.
Blessed are the ones who sing

the first words of children:
this is how I love you.
Blessed are the ones who say
they follow songs into the street.

from Poets Respond
January 19, 2017

__________

Abby E. Murray: “I’m marching in Seattle this weekend in solidarity with those who have been openly threatened by the incoming administration. At first, I planned not to bring my daughter; she’s three and won’t understand; she’s potty-training; she’s innocent—all the reasons. Then, when I realized I had no one to stay with her because her father will be overseas and all the people I trust are also marching, I knew she’d be part of the march as well. I am nervous and a little proud. The structure of a pantoum made me feel more secure.” (web)

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May 6, 2016

Abby E. Murray

PRAYER ON NATIONAL CHILDFREE DAY

Blessed are the miscarriages,
the midnight cramps
and ultrasound jelly,
the long tongue of photographs
that betrays my empty pocket.
Blessed are the minus signs
and skipped cycles and scarring,
the injections drawn up at dawn
by faithful partners
then needled into the thigh.
Blessed be the benders,
the cigarettes and sushi,
the labradoodles and collies
with a bed in every room.
Blessed are the scholars,
the babysitters and aunts,
for you shall bring us
the pregnant woman’s confession:
her passion for pineapple
and your own wasted time,
her blue hour longer than yours,
her well of love dug deeper.
Blessed are the poems
you scratch into the ground,
the nights drained of sleep
and washed with worry.
Happy national day of choice,
day of desire, day of emptiness,
happy national day of solitude.
Happy day of nobody’s business,
happy day of the naked night.
I’ve made a cake for you
nine layers high, come,
bring a fork, bring a plate.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

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__________

Abby E. Murray: “As a military spouse who writes to cope with war and the army lifestyle, it seems impossible not to be a feminist poet. When my daughter was born, I read A Room of One’s Own to her, aloud, before any other book, because it is the closest we will get to a room of our own. If that doesn’t make me a feminist I don’t know what the hell does.” (website)

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July 9, 2015

Abby E. Murray

PHANTOM LIMB

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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May 31, 2015

Abby E. Murray

MEMORIAL DAY 2015

Hello stranger, dear neighbor, brave soldier, hey buddy,
I want you to know we’re glad you ate the goat meat
half-cooked over burning paper, that you handed out jawbreakers,
that you researched the body and all its invisible hinges,
the hair that melts and bones that flavor the blood like soup,
thank you, we mean it, for feeding one stray dog but not the other,
for eating beef stew from a bag and cocoa beverage powder
on your anniversary, on Christmas, thanks for drowning the mice
together in the same bucket, for finding Sergeant Garcia first,
for bringing Connor home and running the memorial race,
for dropping that rose into the ground in Pennsylvania,
for wearing your blues, you sure look sharp, you look good,
you wouldn’t know you’re a soldier, you’re such a normal guy,
so thanks for trusting the interpreter, for saying woah, woah, woah
and giving money to the sheikh, thanks for giving your heavy knife
to the Afghan colonel as a gift, for waiting to hear if the city fell,
thanks for going abroad, overseas, into the sandbox, hell and back,
Godknowswhere and no-man’s-land, because we can only imagine
the PTSD, the hopelessness, the sedatives, the sweats,
we’re so happy you made it, you survived, you came back,
not a dent in the fender, this beer’s for you, buddy, sir, kiddo,
without you I wouldn’t be free to drink it.

Poets Respond
May 31, 2015

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Abby E. Murray: “I celebrate every Memorial Day (and Veterans Day) by watching my husband get thanked for his service, an experience he seems unable to escape. Does anyone know a soldier who appreciates being thanked in this way? Please, stop saying thank you for your service unless you can acknowledge what the word service entails. All he wants to do on Monday is drink gin and think about his dead friends. It’s hard enough for me to keep him alive without you walking across our yard to remind him what his loss has provided for others.” (website)

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