Back to Issue Thirty-One

Buying Rocks for My Students



because it is June
and I believe in gifts
even the kind
I’m not sure about
and the crystal shop window
promises enlightenment
40% off till tomorrow
and my last ten dollars
can’t buy what my students
really need to survive:
Kevlar, protein, mothers
who come home, luck,
birth control, milk
and doors that lock,
but today I can afford
a tiny paper bag full
of purply-gold ametrine,
which the cashier says
can be used to open
the third eye
and that’s important
because the two eyes
my students use most often
need some sleep
the way they don’t flinch
when a door slams
or a car backfires
and I bring the paper bag
to my classroom
turn it over on a table
where the rocks shimmer
up on us like unicorns
and we lean over them
to get a better look
and one girl cries
while we’re picking out
shapes we feel called to
as the cashier suggested
because today is
(if nothing else) the day
we celebrate outliving
our former selves,
versions of us
whose pockets contained
as much sparkle as a poem
that convinced us
tomorrow would show up
for everyone in the room
and it is June
and we believe in gifts
even the kind we receive
as better than nothing




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 argumentative writing to army officers on fellowship from the Army War College at the University of Washington. She also offers free creative writing workshops for immigrants, soldiers, veterans, and their loved ones around Tacoma, Washington, where she is the city’s poet laureate. Her book, Hail and Farewell, was recently released from Perugia Press.

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