—after Li Po
Jasmine rises on the backs of sun-soaked walls
while swifts and swallows perfect a calligraphy of wind and wing.
Not much of a hangover to speak of, there is little
to worry me, save an abandoned skirt
mocking from its laundry line.
The scent of coffee lingers in doorways
and alleys the sun works ceaselessly to fill.
Beside me on the balcony, the oleander
in its cracked pot grows too large, refuses
to be tamed, refuses to hide in shadow
when there is so much Mediterranean light.
When I notice its bloom is more the deep claret
of autumn than the crimson of August,
I imagine I hear flies in the tomato fields,
vines drying and fruit beginning to blacken,
rotting from bottom to stem.
And afraid to find one more life to grieve,
I grab my glass, pour another drink of wine large enough
to give reason to laugh with whatever joy
I have left, then wait for the evening
silhouette of swifts to startle my heart
into some other life.
—One of two winners of an Editor’s Choice Award for this issue of MacQ
is the author of five books and chapbooks, including most recently Ravenous: New
& Selected Poems and Toward Any Darkness. Recent poems and essays
have appeared in a variety of periodicals such as Crab Orchard Review, Poet Lore,
Poetry East, South Carolina Review, Southeast Review, and Southern Poetry
Review, among others. He has received the Gearhart Poetry Prize, a Hawthornden
Fellowship, and The Literary Review’s Charles Angoff Award, among
others. Mulkey currently directs and teaches in the low-residency MFA program
in Creative Writing at Converse College.
Everywhere Becomes Home, a review by William Wright of
Mulkey’s book Ravenous in Flycatcher Journal
⚡ Beautiful and Terrible: An Interview with Barbara Hamby in
The Southeast Review (2 December 2018), in which Hamby discusses her choice
of Mulkey’s poem “Cured” as winner of the 2018 Gearhart Poetry