I read about you in the paper

By Abby E. Murray

There was an argument.

You and your wife moved 

from room to room.

 

You keep guns in the garage

and wear boots in the house—

none of this surprises me.

 

You know the exact heft

and efficacy of a rifle,

know when a handgun

 

is preferable to a pistol

and how to hold both

for maximum lethality.

 

I believe all this, easily.

You deployed after I taught you 

and before, many times, 

 

and you talked about fathers 

who do what you’ve done, 

called them sad, blamed the war 

 

as well as weakness. I believe it. 

The paper says you moved 

from room to room, 

 

armed, as you did through 

other homes with fewer doors, 

where you excelled at finding 

 

people who chose to hide.

I, a voting American, believe this 

without hesitation,

 

just as I believe your rank,

your education, the stars

pinned to your future.

 

Colonels make speeches 

in which they must mention 

their spouses, feminine endurance,

 

a devotion to sacrifice.

You’ve called your wife strong—

a rock—and I believe it.

 

Having met her, I believe

she is the size of a woman

you could shove to the floor 

 

then kick in the chest, 

the face, without breaking aim,

your arms loaded with fire.

 

I believe boots leave prints

when pressed to human skin,

that they sing a sick crunch

 

from muscle and bone

that is both unnatural and real.

This sound is indelible

 

in the ears of those who hear,

even children, even yours.

Your wife is a body 

 

your boots have struck.

Your babies know 

the words don’t shoot us. 

 

I read about you in the paper

and want you to know I have 

yet to say it isn’t possible,

 

you, a human, gun to your head 

where you last saw the enemy,

and the police outside, waiting.

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. She teaches argumentation in military strategy for army officers on fellowship from the Army War College at the University of Washington, and she offers free creative writing workshops for immigrants, civilians, soldiers, veterans, and their loved ones around Tacoma, Washington, where she is the city’s poet laureate. Her book, Hail and Farewell, won the Perugia Press Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 Washington State Book Award. You can reach her at www.abbyemurray.com.