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.
Excellent. Very visual. Mulhern at his best.