From Issue 11: How We Love (Poetry)

"How We Love" originally appeared in Issue 11 of Tahoma Literary Review.

How We Love

By Abby E. Murray


I’m in the kitchen

watching my neighbor

build a fence for his wife.

They don’t trust

my German Shepherd,

who reminds his wife

of this other German Shepherd

who bit their son,

and my dog’s got

that same guilty look,

ears open like two mouths

to a single den

where children stumble

without eyes or fingers.

The rescue trainer says

my dog has a bite-first

talk-later personality

which translates loosely

to asshole which translates

more exactly

to this is how I love my pack.

The fence posts are pitched deep.

There is, I think,

a compass rose on the floor

in the center of my neighbor’s

vanilla living room,

its northward arrow gone blind

to my asshole dog

and her shifty ears

and me in my kitchen

with my big open windows

and a shaved head

and pierced lip.

My neighbors are tidy and white

and plain as piano keys,

they prefer chatting

with my husband over me,

they prefer plants

that won’t interest bees

and they don’t want their son touching

our Indian neighbor’s parakeets

even though they swing

in their wicker cage

like spools of yellow ribbon

and when Dadaji says

I can hold one it is like

carrying a dead man’s hope.

The fence goes up

like a new row of teeth,

one clean thread at a time.

My dog pisses in the dirt

beneath it at night,

making it soft and diggable

while the parakeets

chatter a love song

to moths outside

the dome of their cage,

drawing them closer

to their quick mouths,

their warm throats.

Reprinted with the poet's permission. 

Abby E. Murray

Abby said this about "How We Love:"

I live in a new housing development where very few people seem to communicate with one another directly. Last summer, my German Shepherd rescue got off her leash and, giddy and unsocialized, bolted into my polite neighbors’ (then unfenced) backyard and knocked their ancient terrier over like a bowling pin. A week later, the husband starting building a fence. He is friendly and chatted awkwardly as I sat on the porch writing this.

Abby teaches creative writing at the University of Washington Tacoma, and edits Collateral, a journal that explores the impact of military service and violent conflict beyond the combat zone.