James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over two hundred times and has received several awards. Mr. Mulhern was granted a fully paid writing fellowship to Oxford University. A short story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. He was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2021 for his poetry.
You know the meeting
when a question asked
“makes someone feel bad,”
considered a “microaggression” or “trigger.”
When the discussion dissolves
and a person’s “fragility” flashes
on the marquee—“Hurt Feelings.”
The discourse disregarded
like a raised hand ignored.
My grandmother lived in a dirt-floor house,
strut one mile to a well,
slept in a bed with two siblings
and a few fire-warmed bricks.
Never once said, “My feelings are hurt,”
wouldn’t have understood “fragility”—
her schooling stopped in sixth grade.
Most mornings, she knelt, said her rosary,
then walked over a broken-planked porch,
hugged a wooden pail, stepped onto earth,
and trekked to the water.
Homeward, she gingerly avoided stones
that stabbed, bruised, and hurt her feet,
but still she whispered blessings to the wind.