commute, JB Mulligan

Amy Casey, Rubble, 2008, Acrylic on Paper, 22″ X 30″




Maples aflame in the cold November night
as the bus rolls by, its windows pocked with rain.
The park is empty, the houses nearby are dark
boxes speckled with little squares of light
behind which unseen lives sputter and spark,
burn, collapse to ashes, then blaze again.
Too tired to sleep, too wound up with a day
between two other similar days, I ride
toward my box, relieved to be relieved
by its approach – how many lean away
and wish they had a life to be relived,
not dreams that we’ve inflated or denied?
I’ve had some good years clutching at the ground
with strangers’ talons grasping all around,
entangled threnodies without a sound.

JB Mulligan


Review by Jared Pearce

The bright-leaved trees contrasted with the boring bus set the stage for this poem—the themes compacted in the first few lines. From there the idea develops: against the monotony of life, there may come moments of reflection that reveal not all was a loss, not all was in vain, that there was some meaning. That middle space—the poem is not a celebration in the face of other, taloned participants, nor even the nameless others who perhaps share the speaker’s perspective—between ennui and despair, between hope and grace maybe, is where the poem moves, as dark as the rainy evening, yes, but with a quick glimpse of the burning trees, too.

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