At the Wives’ Coffee

By Abby E. Murray

Featured Art: A Rose by Thomas Anshutz

You should know
             there is no coffee
                                at the Wives’ Coffee

There’s prosciutto
               and cream puffs
                               and conversation starters
                                               printed on glossy paper

And here’s a tip
               from the commander’s wife:

Wives who forget
               to wear the crest pin
                              will be fined a dollar
                                          because these pins
                                                             aren’t free ladies

and immediately
                I’m a stump
                      rolled into the river
                                               before a flood
                                                               I am uncooperative

a hollow log sheltering rebel fish
               a disruption of roots

But the conversation starters
                are required and my question is

What discussion topic bores you to sleep every time?

and I want sleep to come to me
               now like a shovel arrives in dirt
                        but instead I blurt BABIES
                                               and one of the wives
                                                               Danielle, I think

hugs her eight-month bump
                 so I grasp for more words
                                 as if they’re ropes
                                                 that might tow me ashore

              I mean PINTEREST
                       I mean WHO SAID WHAT

And the air is stiff
               with some wrong
                               that smells like burning

and I know it’s me
               I recognize the flavor
                               of my own smoke

which I wear heavy in my hair
               the emblem of defeat no other wife has earned

sinking in now like a hammered crown

And you should know
              every Wives’ Coffee
                              is actually my coronation

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.

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