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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 1: January 2020
Poem: 184 words
By Rick Mulkey

Waking Alone After Drinking
Too Much Wine in Umbria

—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

Rick Mulkey
Issue 1, January 2020

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.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

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 Contest

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