Poem of the Week | June 22, 2015

This week we feature a new poem by Bern Mulvey. Poems by Mulvey have appeared, among other places, in Poetry, Agni, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, The Laurel Review, Passages North and Poetry East. His first book, The Fat Sheep Everyone Wants, won the 2007 Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize, and his second book, Deep Snow Country, won the 2013 FIELD Poetry Prize. He lives in Iwate, Japan.
Author’s note:

This poem was written over a period of several days this past summer. As I had recently been experimenting with the haiku form, it is made up of stanzas written in that form–though I was influenced as well by Tawara Machi’s work with tanka (e.g., in Sarada Kinnenbi), particularly her way of using a series of these short poems to present (when considered collectively) a coherent narrative. I like the disjointed feel the short stanzas give to the whole, similar to looking at a collection of photos on a particular subject, how a full sense of the collection’s overriding “theme” becomes clear only when viewed in the aggregate. (I wrote this poem after the incident alluded to in the title. My son was 15.)


Lines Written After My Son’s Stroke


A sudden shiver–
crow off for elsewhere, the branch
shudders into place.


I listen but can’t,
won’t understand the doctor
on the phone, talking.


My son was found prone
in the street. A stranger stopped,
finally. Bless him.


That morning, rising
from the muddy rice paddies,
twirls of silver mist.


The blood from the tongue,
bit off, covered him, a red
veil across his face.


I am here to save
you. Said to a potted plant,
empty waiting room.


The spring day lingers,
waiting, I will not say it,
cannot say the word.


Death is like holding
your eldest child when he can’t
hold even himself.


Swans leaving, the loud,
rude V’s they make overhead
as they fly west, home.


A genetic flaw,
it’s late–tired, we try not
to blame each other.


Twitch, an unconscious
tremor–how the demands of
the body save us.


Sent out for a walk,
Friday afternoon, sallow
sky, last spring flowers.


Kousa, the yellow
wind, dust from China, then I
see through the swirling.