James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over one hundred and fifty times and has been recognized with many awards. In 2015, Mr. Mulhern was granted a writing fellowship to Oxford University. That same year, a story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His recent novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019. He was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2021 for his poetry. Recently, two of his novels were Finalists for the United Kingdom’s Wishing Shelf Book Awards.

The Nest

By James Mulhern

I imagine you looking at the robins’ nest in the Maple outside your bedroom window.
You can’t see the blue eggs, but you watch the male bring his partner dry grass and twigs.
He brings dirt, too, dipped in a birdbath or gathered from a swampy spot at the yard’s edge.
The female cements the nest, protecting her brood of four or five.

Sometimes you stare at your body cast, a remnant of your spinal surgery,
but most hours you watch the tree, the birds, the clouds, and the sky.
The days pass slowly, but at the two-week mark, you see tips of yellow mouths,
like tulips or other flowers you used to smell in the lawn beyond.

You think of the day your hardened mold cracks open and you walk outside.
How you will look upward, mouth open, scanning the blue and clouds and sun,
hoping to glimpse a fledgling, or any free bird, flying far across the sky.
Where it travels is not your concern. Your joy is that it does.