JB Mulligan

tenuous roots


Lines of corn
scratched in the earth.
Ogham of birth.

The same pictograph
over and over.
Keep on.  Keep on.

Beyond, rows of houses,
boxes of dried leaves
waiting for a wind.

Keep on.  Keep on.

 

 

the red canoe


In 1916, at the Jersey shore,
a shark attacked a man
who worked as a bell captain at the hotel
next to the hotel where
my family stayed, decades later.
His legs were completely severed.
A witness told the lifeguards that
there was a red canoe
capsized and floating in the ocean.
That isn't what they found.

People died and headlines bled.
Books and movies followed
decades later.  The man-eater shark,
savage, relentless, eyes
of marble, and endless appetite,
became mythology.

Last week, close to the Jersey sands,
a sickly dolphin swam
until the sharks located it.
The fins and tails cut air,
black knives above the curls of foam,
and there, on a tourist's film,
I saw the capsized red canoe
clear on the water's surface.

We write all meaning, red and black,
on a pale and empty page
as if they were a certainty.
There's just a red canoe.




JBMulligan has published more than 1100 poems and stories in various magazines over the past 45 years, and has had two chapbooks: 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). He has appeared in more than a dozen anthologies, and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize anthology.

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