In a Taxi from de Gaulle by Rick Mullin

In a Taxi from de Gaulle

This morning the plaster-white dome of Montmartre
presents to the highway a century’s grime.
It hemorrhages clouds from a cold Sacred Heart

to color the city of Ingres and Descartes
a boulevard gray. In the interest of time
this morning, the plaster-white dome of Montmartre

speaks not of its grand contribution to art,
but more of its neighborhood’s canvas of crime.
The hemorrhage of cloud from its cold Sacred Heart

calls forward the spirit of Camus and Sartre—
the pipe smoke that wanders and couplets that rhyme.
Of mourning, the plaster-white dome of Montmartre,

of man in the city and man set apart.
A neutralized palette of carbon and lime
is hemorrhaging clouds from the cold Sacred Heart

to vistas bequeathed by a third Bonaparte,
on steps of the Commune, the pilgrim, the mime.
This morning the plaster-white dome of Montmartre
bleeds into the clouds from a cold Sacred Heart.

Paris, October 3, 2010

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: This villanelle escapes the usual recursive spiral of repetition with carefully chosen imagery.

To a Hero of the Interior by Rick Mullin

To a Hero of the Interior
For Jim Day, 1953 – 2018

This year’s fire season dwarfs all others.
Thus the California facet of our standard
glows behind the paper lanterns.

And the hurricanes.

But in the afterburn of a fact
that changes the future,
there is lesser light
and too much space.

A DJ on the Saturday morning after
opines that the Stones never got off
a good live Satisfaction,

that it’s all about how the parts
come together in the studio

that’s why everything is possible
and most of it believable if it happens.

Up the sidewalk newspapers lie
where they were tossed in
their blue plastic bags.

The boy in the park crouches
like a shooter with his fingers
at eye level before counting
in a game of hide and seek

and there are faces in the wood whorls
but the neighbors do not wave
nor do the strangers nod today.

I do not whistle past the graveyard
but jog straight through it
in our accustomed way.

And I am not invisible if you see me, Jim,
among the lonely champions
of your consecutive seasons,
the children in your meta-spectral classroom
and everyone at the Anchor bar
in Wanaque.

For there you are
sitting in cross-legged apotheosis
on the white sheets of your day bed
typing a dissertation.

Your killer’s association with Asia
and birds bends the sardonic grin
of sublime figures.

Belushi before Belushi
Explicator of Robin
and William Carlos,

I know you understand
why I treat myself today
to wearing
the sky blue underwear.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: Sometimes there aren’t enough words to create a proper memorial, though poets always try. My sincerest condolences.

February by Rick Mullin


The Christmas amaryllis keeps on growing,
boxed, neglected into February,
curled against the cardboard in the dark,
a spark in Quasimodo’s brooding cell.
And we move through our shadow-angled house
unconscious of its tendrils in our beds,

its airborne web, the ways that unmade beds
embrace corruption. Silence feeds what’s growing
daily when there’s no one in the house,
and a flower burns through nights in February,
out of sight, a churning carousel
abandoned with its lights on in the dark.

Forgotten visitation, onioned arc,
it aches to show itself… and know our beds.
To mix with us in each dividing cell
that pushes farthest from the fire. It’s growing
spinelessly in love with February
and the hibernations of our house,

the mouthfeel of our eggs and Maxwell House,
and the flavor of our bodies in the dark
while we’re away. The radix Februari
cultivates our absent flower beds.
It’s growing, growing, growing, growing, growing,
microfiber, wind spore, nanocell,

unnaturally active past its sell-
by-date, and wiring our entire house
with febroneural threads. The box is growing
bolder and more desperate, sweet and dark.
Perhaps it means to choke us in our beds
and spend the waning days of February,

with its vampire apex, February,
with its uphill climb and sleeper cell
around the corner, sucking in our beds
and pulling us, digested, to a house
beneath the sideboard where we left it dark
and dying in a box. But it kept growing,

growing like a February virus,
burning in the dark, a fuel cell,
an unmade brain, a house of hunchbacked beds.

by Rick Mullin, first appeared in Measure, from Stignatz & the User of Vicenza.

Editor’s Note: It is February, and this poem is a sestina written in blank verse, which is astonishing.

I Nailed You by Rick Mullin

I Nailed You

I nailed you and I have you in a box
I balance on my lap aboard the train.
A 9-by-12 inch portrait that unlocks
what I believe to be your soul. A stain
on canvas, a permanent and mortal mark.
In years to come you’ll gather dust between
a night class nude and Landscape with a House
above my bookshelf. But for now the green
I mixed with red unbuttoning your blouse
is wet, the shadow on your shoulder dark
and thick, the highlight on your face
uneven, though it captures your distinct
appeal and can be scraped. I can erase.
But I will not, as neither of us blinked
tonight in your apartment on the park.

by Rick Mullin, from Transom, Dos Madres Press, 2017

Editor’s Note: Rich imagery marries painting to poetry in these lines, while delicately narrating the eroticism of an encounter that might be permanent (and might not).

Transfer of Power by Rick Mullin

Transfer of Power

It’s only natural, our hearts attuned
to reconciliation, that a great divide
would bleed into its center as the wound
reverts to scar on the resilient hide.
There are the massacre and Pentecost.
The fumes of war, the bright tongue of the dove.
Given ample rope, we’d hang ourselves,
but our imagination casts above
the rafters and the heavy attic shelves
on which our bound philosophies are tossed.
There comes a desperate encounter, fraught
with animal ferocity, a hand
extended where a battle has been fought
to one who rises from the bloody sand
already overwhelmed. Already lost.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: This poem’s strong meter begs for an audio recording of its lines, but alas, we must imagine a strong voice as the hard, sharp rhymes resound within our mental landscape.

The Crash at Lackawanna Terminal by Rick Mullin

The Crash at Lackawanna Terminal

There is a mix of phthalocyanine
and cobalt in the heavy beams that cross
beneath titanium and crinoline,
a glass that filters cadmium to dross
and lights the space in saturated grays.
It’s aqueous and beautiful, a round
embodiment of contrasts in the steel
that arches and the iron on the ground.
A firmament. A sphere, a world, a wheel,
an engine balancing the grit and glaze
outside the stony Beaux-arts waiting room.
A palette worked for ages yielding blue
and gold to kilowatts and diesel fume
at 20 miles an hour plowing through
the hurling platform of our latter days.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: The contrast of beauty to destruction is skillfully illustrated by this poem. The end rhyme of “phthalocyanine” to “crinoline” is creative and unexpected.

Oculus by Rick Mullin


Upon the opening of the World Trade Center Path Station

Today, I left Manhattan through a mall
that looked a little like a pterodactyl;
Jurassic Park in a thoracic hall,
its skylight cutting daytime to a fractal.
I’d seen it from the street. A stegosaurus
AWOL from the Natural Museum
way uptown, a looming basilisk
of sunbaked bone, an oval coliseum.
It came in over-budget with its whisk
of angels in an asymmetric chorus
making wings. Leviathan, it sank
into the new-built plaza at Ground Zero.
Phoenix flayed. But take it to the bank,
as did the cat with blueprints, caballero.
One extinct design shall come before us.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: It’s always a delight to read a poem in which every word and line break is purposefully chosen, and every image perfectly fit into its place.

Hindu Love Gods by Rick Mullin

Hindu Love Gods

for Prince

More of a shotgun weekend than a band,
more drunken than guitar,
we played the standards and a curveball
knocked out loaded.

In battleship berets and berry chains
we threw a Wang Dang Doodle
spilling all the blues we knew
before the drummer’s head exploded.

A follow-up to Dust My Broom,
we no-showed like The No Tomorrow.
Slim mercy at the Eye-See-You.
We beg. We steal. We borrow.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: Sometimes all we can do when faced with loss is throw music out into the world and hope it sticks.

Newark Basilica by Rick Mullin

Newark Basilica

It hunkers like a clammy slug
Behind the treeline twigs of March,
A basilisk, a box, a bug,
A plug of pasty Gothic starch.

But that could change. It often does,
As boxes, clams, and plugs may leak,
And cherry blossoms come, becuz
It’s April sometime late next week.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: This poem pokes fun at a building most people would consider impressive, and by proxy, also pokes holes in the seriousness with which the weight of history imbues such a structure (and its purpose).

Crisis of Faith by Rick Mullin

Crisis of Faith

I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel
for putting an oar in the Enterprise Space.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle,

the boxplots are blotto, the figures are fickle,
our Cartesian pie charts are wrong on their face.
I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel.

It’s Hammer & Champy meets Hammer & Sickle,
it’s reengineer with Saber & Mace.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle,

so everything’s coming up higgeldey-jickel.
Our global perspective’s all over the place.
I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel.

These robust solutions are murky and mickel,
a worst-case scenario case after case.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle,

its data work better when choked to a trickle,
it’s 85 slides, but I’ll cut to the chase.
I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: A villanelle with impeccable punctuation, meter, rhyme, and humor is a rare creature. Enjoy!