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I Read About You in the Paper

Abby E. Murray

Colonels make speeches / in which they must mention / their spouses, feminine endurance, / a devotion to sacrifice.

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

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