After a Massacre – New Poetry by Abby E. Murray

After a Massacre

Joint Third Place in the Letter Review Prize for Poetry

New Poetry by Abby E. Murray

This morning, she woke up to me
sitting beside her, my hand on her
lavender-pajamaed still-baby-belly,

a gesture that has calmed her since
the day she was born. She is eight
and I’m not certain I will ever feel

her abdomen beneath my palm
without calling it her tummy, if only
to myself, because she has recently

discovered she is too grown up to
be cute, too sophisticated to go potty
or say, as she used to, that one hand

has four fingers and a flumb, and I am
not one of those mothers who’d keep
her child young forever if she could,

I’m not, I am too excited about her
adulthood, too invested in her old age,
which can also be called her survival

in American English—but listen,
I’m just trying to reconcile the names
of things with things themselves

one morning after a massacre,
because perhaps this is the only way
to teach my daughter not to speak

a language I somehow learned, the one
that says massacre is just another word
for Tuesday, a tummy is filled with entrails,

prayer is what people say to wish away
a slaughter, and comfort is something
everyone believes in but nobody sees.

I am wondering how to say
it is 7AM and she needs to get up
and put on a clean kitten t-shirt,

eat her usual bowl of mini wheats,
then walk to school and work on her
crepe-paper-goldfish when my teeth

and tongue only seem capable of
pronouncing the words stay here, stay here,
and this is how to say good morning when

you really mean it is morning, and this
is how to call a person you love safe
every time you remember they are not.

Abby E. Murray is the editor of Collateral, a literary journal concerned with the impact of violent conflict and military service beyond the combat zone. Her book, Hail and Farewell, won the Perugia Press Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 Washington State Book Award. She served as the 2019-2021 poet laureate for the city of Tacoma, Washington, and currently teaches rhetoric in military strategy to Army War College fellows at the University of Washington.

Original Artwork by Kita Das