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
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.
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