James Mulhern – Carol

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 at 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 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. Two of his novels were Finalists for the United Kingdom’s Wishing Shelf Book Awards.


Carol

You showed me a painting,
shapes of greens, blues, and purples.

A black stroke, apostrophe-shaped, stood out.
“That’s me in a crowd.” You laughed.

I was only twelve. You were thirty-four,
living in an apartment by the beach.

From a window, you could see waves
crashing forward, then contracting.

I thought the painting was like the ocean.
With you in it, tumbling headfirst onto the shore.

I don’t like contractions,
though I just used one.

Deletions and elisions bother me
because something is cut out.

You are now eighty-one. I am fifty-nine.
Seems not a minute has passed.

I wish I had used a paintbrush.
Changed the black mark to an exclamation.

No. A heart would be better.
Bright red, pulsing under the light.

Beating like cresting waves,
crowding and contracting,
incapable of eroding
an everlasting apostrophe-shaped rock.

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