Poetry

Links to poems:

From All These Hungers:

An Explanation,” http://www.stilljournal.net/rick-mulkey-poetrycontest2016.php

Concerning Whisky,” http://www.macqueensquinterly.com/MacQ1/Mulkey-Whiskey.aspx

Explicating Bluefield,” https://muse.jhu.edu/article/725257/summary

Velveeta” Originally published Crab Orchard Review:  https://issuu.com/craborchardreview/docs/book_24_2c2__1_

Cured,” originally published in Southeast Review: https://www.brickroadpoetrypress.com/rick-mulkey

Insomnia,” originally appeared in Toward Any Darkness, and reprinted in Ravenous: New and Selected Poems: http://www.versedaily.org/insomnia.shtml

Additional Poems:

Blind-Sided

Only one person is known to have been hit by

a meteorite. On November 30, 1954, Mrs. E.H. Hodges

of Sylacauga, Alabama, was sitting in her house after 

lunch when a 9-pound stone crashed through the roof 

and hit her on the thigh.—Walter Sullivan, We Are Not Alone

Nine years and three days later I drop to the earth

with considerably less speed, but with as great

an impact, or at least that’s how my mother tells it.

And she lived to tell about it, as did Mrs. Hodges,

once she recovered from the shock, the thrill

of coming as close to the eternal universe, eternally,

as a few inches. But isn’t that always the way.

One moment we’re minding our own business,

wandering about in our lives, no apparent course, 

the next we’re rolling diapers into a meteoric knot 

and hurling them into the pail. 

Or, as with my friend J., we’re finishing

our lunch when out of nowhere a wife stiffens in her seat 

and looks across the room. There’s nothing there, 

but still she looks, hoping that the words will fall

from the heavens. There is no easy way

to say it, so she leans into the table

and without apology says she’s had enough,

that it’s her turn to find herself, that the monotonous 

orbit she’s been forced into won’t do. Her tight, stony fists

hang in her lap.  Silences stretch light years,

and all the feeble attempts at reconciliation 

will never reach her now. It’s the same feeling

as when Mark Preston blind-sided me,

stone-hard knuckles snapped the ridge of my nose, 

a stream of blood flared into the parking lot.

Some other kid might have swung back, but I was horrified

at the pool filling my palm.  My blood

I repeated to myself as I sat there

quietly while a friend finished off the guy I believed

was trying to finish me. He never knew what hit him.

Nor did Mrs. Hodges until they calmed her, medicated

her from a pain that wouldn’t end.  Years later she’d wake

to the fiery ache in her leg, a reminder of what she’d

been and what she’d become, survival’s gravity

twisting her life into one deep breath, like the first breath

that coughs up the phlegm of another world and deposits

it right here in this one where all around us stars

flare into bits of battered stone, and the universe

leaves each of us alone to explode in all directions. 


*Appeared in Toward Any Darkness, (Word Press 2007), reprinted in Ravenous: New and Selected Poems, and in Poetry Daily.

High Lonesome

It’s the hammered notes of rainwater over dry October;

lost voices conjured from the polished grain of poplar,

the mandolin’s tight strings pressed into the memory of wood. 

It’s the song of wind in laurel, the shifting sun above the chicory of June.

Song of the banjo, sweet loss thumb-picked and bone-strummed.

Songs we don’t hear so much as know in heartbeat,

toe-tap, and blood-thrum. Songs hummed in kitchens and bedrooms,

in backseats rollin’ in our sweet baby’s arms.

Songs of pickups at dusk turning home, the AM radio broadcasting

light on the blackened faces of men heavy with the work of grief.

Songs of the barbed wire fence, the salt-cured sow, 

the chicken coop, the stray hound.

Song shaped by hands breathing over gut-string and hog-hide.

Songs of towns whose names imply they might hold light.

Song of stone and storm, weary hymn of the woman 

above the ironing board, the shucked corn, 

the straw-haired child dancing ‘round the apron strings.

Song of creek-cut valley, wind-hewn ridge. Song of the Chevy

abandoned to thistle, the plow gouging the wet pasture.

Ballad of the worm working the heart’s deep cave, the shrill a cappella

of starlings in a winter field, wind on a timbered hillside,

the owl offering the half-eaten world on a bed of bones.

Songs that fill the sky above rail yards 

with the scrolled promises of falling stars. 

*Appeared in Toward Any Darkness (Word Press 2007) and Crab Orchard Review