When He Receives Orders to Afghanistan and a Parking Ticket: How to Respond

What you say matters,
each word tagged
and monitored
like an eaglet.
Make your voice
a small bird,
the kind he can hold
in the palm of his hand:
chickadee, sparrow, canary.
Use words that behave
in the corridors of memory.
Don’t say Fuck.
Don’t be a blue jay.
Don’t crack your head
on the window
or rifle through his duffel.
Don’t ask where he parked.
When he hands you
the ticket, its charges
printed in dark red script,
let the checkbook
fly from your purse
like a finch.
Post payment immediately
and sing, sing, sing.
Don’t hoard bits of paper,
don’t shred his orders.
Don’t bark, don’t pick.
You are not a magpie,
you are not a crow.
Your voice is a long, sweet song.
Build a nest on his shoulder
and rest your head there.
Fill his ears with feathers
so downy and slight
they can fill a canal
and never weigh more
than an ounce.


Abby E. Murray received her Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University and an MFA from Pacific University. She served as director of the Binghamton Poetry Project in upstate New York for two years and taught poetry workshops in public schools, libraries and a veterans center until 2015, when she moved to Washington. As a military spouse, she relocates often but currently teaches creative writing at the University of Washington Tacoma, where she also offers free workshops to veterans and military dependents.