“This Is Only a Test” by Abby E. Murray

Abby E. Murray


this is a test
of the emergency alert
system if this were
an actual emergency
there would be thousands
of white ladies
lurching forward
to touch a man
with two thumbs up
and they’d be howling
a carol that sounds
like wolves being shot
from above
and if this wasn’t
merely a drill
you would be directed
to the nearest rendezvous
for people who once
begged to escape
which looks similar
to the federal building
next to the scrap metal yard
which is burning
an otherworldly smoke
toward space on the tail
of California’s ashes
and if this were
an actual emergency
fire crews would advise
us not to inhale deeply
or swallow water
within city limits
until there can be
a thorough investigation
of the active shooter
who may or may not
be barricaded in a shed
with a legally purchased
rifle and years of rejection
which can be fatal
to those who live
near the rejected
and there would be
hundreds of doors
flung open on churches
and there would be
bodies everywhere
watching each other
wondering whose hands
will pull them from
the subway tracks
and whose will press
a scream back down
its own throat toward
the mattress but this is
only a test no action
is needed I repeat
no action is needed

from Poets Respond
October 7, 2018


Abby E. Murray: “This morning, the radio told me about the upcoming presidential alert text I’d be receiving. Later, everywhere I e-turned, there was an article responding to this alert, whether it was emphasizing the absurdity of this current administration’s reach or the impending fear we should feel when notified of an attack. Some of the responses were funny. But the line ‘No action is needed’ really stuck with me. (Isn’t this the message of so many people afraid of their traditional roles and practices being shaken?) I realized I wasn’t half as concerned about a text being sent to millions of people as the other fires we currently have roaring on every corner. I realized that, behind each of those fires, there is someone (or a group of someones) calling for no action to be taken.” (web)

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