'Language itself is a child': Five poems by JBMulligan

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'Language itself is a child': Five poems by JBMulligan

'Language itself is a child': Five poems by JBMulligan

life cycles

The pain-maddened hands of the trees cover the nakedness of snow as much as they undress the winter mountain. Old Mother Dragon on her side: her dark chicks are feeding in hordes and their draining renews her as slowly, small wings unfurl. The dance of green, the scattering of breezes, like seeds: chant for the coming harvest. Irregular slow burning and ashes fall, the sacrifice of the King. What has gone deep waits to rise again like hunger. ***

"The verb for I."

            (W.S. Merwin, Losing a Language)

The verb for I runs across the lawn shaping the ground of the future until the shape is lost beneath the avalanche of other shapes similar, in palimpsest.  (The verb for palimpsest is life itself over-layering the constant surface of being with being.) A verb is a bland equation conveying sometimes excitement as numbers add up to their total. Nouns are things, verbs motion, or nouns are ideas, verbs stillness. Language itself is a child and a scientist, and the same curved glass brings the world close up and gleaming largely, and the verb for I is there as well atremble on both sides of the trembling glass. ***


The wind and rain tear up contracts with memory, rip away the deed to the past, wash out the ink and leave the page of today blank beneath the pen of tonight ready to write tomorrow. Even the car that whooshes by bears a driver out of bondage to what he was.  His future opens before the hissing wipers: is clear, is blurred, is clear, is blurred but is his to reach toward freed from the gnarly fingers that clutch at him like trees palsied by showers and gusts. ***

seeming random

There are no random acts of violence: there's the blade or bullet waiting in the fist of the heart, there's the laugh as cold as a stone in the killer's voided eye, but there's nothing random. There's the pride of the failure at crushing the wings of a dream. There's the emptiness of hope for anybody else, the curse on joys beyond the desert where the soul slithers, cold in its hunger, and strikes. And there's the loss of a smile, of eyes like the rings of a lover. New names attach to the story as if they were details, and are. The pain is past all cameras, is a cost of joy, as hope laughs along the sunlit street, egg-shell-innocent and here. ***

to Kobayashi Issa

"This world -- " Issa writes, "a banquet of flowers just above hell." His crop was poverty, always in bloom, a soil of dung and clay – but petals scattered bright and useless. Still, there is the banquet. Still, there is hell. You couldn't separate the world from the world, you could only live among the blossoms, over the flames. ***

JBMulligan has had more than 1000 poems and stories in various magazines over the past 40 years, and has had two chapbooks published: The Stations of the Cross and THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS, as well as 2 e-books, The City of Now and Then, and A Book of Psalms (a loose translation).

Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review: ‘And we smelt like guavas’ : Five poems by Nilim Kumar ‘You may see the city slowing down’ : Five poems by Malcolm Carvalho ‘It was spring and we suckled dreams’: Four poems by Linthoi Ningthoujam  

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