“Thoughts My Morning Coffee Stirs”, “Hangnails and Other Bad Habits” and “Stay in the Lines”

Thoughts My Morning Coffee Stirs

I believe in the strength of the first sip of coffee

and the rickety leg on the chair at the table.

I believe her tattooed shoulder, against my tattooed thigh

never altered the planet’s arch,

nor the speed cancer grows on a kidney,

nor how many children will be cold tonight as they sleep.

I stopped believing in heroes when a judge let

Brock Turner walk free after three months.

I believe in the way monarch butterflies fly home

to Mexico every fourth generation.

I don’t believe bloody Marys cure a hangover.
I believe morning breath can be the most powerful way

to fall out of love with someone,

but sometimes be the most powerful way

to remember why you first did.

I believe hair-ties always break when you need them most

and spoons shoveling ice cream bend too easily.

I believe the first shot of whiskey makes

you believe everything that comes after it.

I don’t believe in the God of my childhood,

but when Granny remembers every word to “Amazing Grace,”

I feel holier than the water Christ was baptized in.

I believe in strengthening your pelvic floor and self-appreciation.
I started believing in heroes again when Judge Aquilina

sentenced Nassar to 175 years.

I believe if the sex is good,

the after sex cigarette will be better.

I believe in the wisteria that stains the wind,

in shrieking sirens at 3am in the city streets,

in the smell of apricots coming off her neck.

I believe if dreams exist then nightmares do too,

but best of all,

I believe we wake up from those dreams where our teeth fall out,

or we fall endlessly into that black pit,

and feel relief like cool shade cover us when we wake,

feel comfort, like healing tattoos,

when the sharp ache finally fades.

Hangnails and Other Bad Habits

Enamel finds the sharp corner of my index finger

Her lips glisten Broadway red,

eyelids shine yellows and reds and blacks.

She leans on the counter, he eyes her,

she straightens, swallows and laughs.

Lips pushed up out of the way, two parallel edges of white grab hold

Her eyes, moss green, flicker to mine,

her black pools islands in a marsh.

Cheeks rise, she shows her teeth,

nonthreatening, terrified, and harsh.

Slow, deliberate pull away, the flesh tears from home

His hand braces her waist, grips.

Her hand grips the counter, tensed.

Moss green ripped away from

brown stone, last act of defense.

Red molecules released into cautious air

And suddenly she can’t breathe.

And suddenly I can’t breathe.

He pulls, she releases too late- she looks

again, one last glance, silent plea.

The end of my skin finally freed, blood drips onto my register.

Stay in the Lines

Splinters of rain hit my eyes

Momentarily blurring my vision

Wet kisses from a slobbery sky dog

I smile as she shivers under a blanket

Snuggled with the daughters

Wet hair and sudden bursts of laughter

Rain so strong conversations turn to yelling matches

Wet gets wetter and dry disappears

Like droplets on a page

Dark circles fading to light

But leaving a faint stain that will make me wonder

Years from now, what it was



White Wine?

How do you make a hard torrent pleasant?

You color with an eight-year-old on the porch.

The page of my coloring book is wet and—

Have you ever tried to color on a wet page?

Pressing harder makes the pages tear

The tips of a sharp pencil stab through parchment.

Colors don’t blend— they smear.

Brown turns to mud, peach turns to mush.

Scarlet runs like blood down the princess’s dress

Gold melts like saturated petals

On a sunflower; but the black print


The blood will flow over them

And the mud will make the pages dirty

Like flash flooding seeping into the corners of the basement

And the golds will melt like candle wax

Black lines sturdy.

The princess still holds her book,

Pages torn, frayed—

an imperfect masterpiece

unable to become something better,

unable to read words that once

might have been written,

unable to mix colors together.

Can’t hang it on the fridge.

Shred it. Throw it away.

I was never good at coloring in the lines anyway.

About the Author

Chloe McMurray

Chloe McMurray is a junior at Union College studying English, Sociology, and Writing. She won the Rushton Writing Competition for Poetry in 2017. Her works have been featured in the Grassroots Women Projects: The Notebook, SKCTC's literary journal Bloodroot, and the online magazine Across the Margin. For two years, she has led a creative writing and social justice group in her hometown of Middlesboro, Kentucky which caters to minority group youth, primarily those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Read more work by Chloe McMurray.