one on the wall by JB Mulligan

one on the wall
(Lance Corporal John Henry Ferril II, 6/3/46-7/7/67)

I

Your brother and your sisters speak
and sometimes hear the silence take
a familiar shape, and break.

Your shadow moves in shadows on their floors.
Your knock is sunlight on their doors.
Your smile might brush at night against theirs.

Your job. Your eyes. Your time alone.
So many threads undone
that air and light and dark are thinned.

Some essential pulse is lost,
something that dips and soars along the coast,
some egg that tumbled from the nest
and leaves each morning sky unblessed.

II

Stranger in a strange land,
speaking to new acquaintance or friend,
looking frequently around

this vivid lack of home
in shifting shadows of hope and gloom,
aware that what is to come

might be the trickle of a drying well
from which you drank the little that was all
that you could take before you fell.

Your memories are brittle coins
and gems scattered among the jagged stones
of a battlefield in broken designs
worn smooth by the seasons.

III

A man born on the day you died
would be nearing fifty – bellied
and balding, perhaps, laughing loud

as he pokes at the holiday grill,
watches sparks dance up from coal,
the drift and drop and settle of a gull

on the sea: backdrop of waves
frilled and ragged; a boat which leaves
its peeling wake. He loves

(since he is not) invisible children
running on sand, a wife unseen,
unkissed, unmet. You are gone
and he might have been your son.

by JB Mulligan

Editor’s Note: This poem handles potential and loss in three parts, using shadows, a boat’s wake, and other imagery as the backdrop of grief because some things can’t be touched directly. You only know they exist because of their absence.

From the archives – Thirst for Rain — JB Mulligan

1puddle

Thirst for Rain

Waiting for deliverance of the package of life:
a box holding the truth our truths are about —
the feet suck to the ground as if they had
a choice, a fly’s gymnastics more graceful
and only slightly less erratic or brief;
the eyes blink at the sun and peer into
the threat of shadow; the hands shape things
because they must, the compulsion to build
for that which is capable of building, the way
termites are sentenced to erecting mounds.
Life like hands cupped and raised to a sky
from which the rain is always ready to fall.
But we want what makes the water thunder
on the hard parched earth and the thick mud:
the maker of rain; the form of the first drop
that poised like a star and rushed downward;
the thirst for water that was always meant only for us.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 2 — by JB Mulligan

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Poem without adjectives — JB Mulligan

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Poem without adjectives

Pity the poem without adjectives
as it staggers through the night.
It wipes the rain from its face
and ponders how to describe
the minds of its generation,
the hands not even the rain has.
The wheelbarrow, the chickens,
are shadows. The sands stretch
in drabness away from the plaque,
from the sneer. The sea of Homer
misses its companion. Aeneus
cannot locate his piety.

The poem lifts a bottle. “Nothing?”
The crash of glass, like a wave.
“I need a fu….”
It groans. “I can’t do it.
I need…. Oh, I need
a drink. And an adjective.”

Its skin shakes. Its eyes totter.
Ahead of it, day leads into day
like the houses in a city
in lines down the streets,
no adjectives there. Emptiness.

It stands on a corner,
waiting for the light
to change from a color
which cannot be said, to….

It sobs. The rain
drums a march
as if from a distance:
the graveyard
where they buried
all the adjectives.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 21 — by JB Mulligan

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim