Paul Robert Mullen, Come to think of it


there we are
dipping toes into the lagoon
unshaded from the temple
of the sun

the echoes
of a distant city riding
on the waves, crashing against the
silken rocks

we are far away, your eyes suggest
from the world of cholera
and bank accounts, car crashes,
breaking news,
school dinners and accident & emergency rooms
fish bones
silent drones
cold war at
the kitchen table

we are farther from our roots
than we’ve ever been
closer to home
than we’ve ever known

in cities

and come to think of it
we saw the vicar
stumbling down hope street with his
knickers dangling
from his suit

the headmaster
in the bookies scoffing cookies
on his lunch hour, screaming at screens
“you fuckin’ beaut!”

the cleaner in
marigolds applying lippy
in car windows

“never speak to strangers!”
shouts the purple-nosed drunk
propped up by his
lollipop, halting drug-money vans
outside the cabbage inn

and the rain is pounding the wheelie bins
as drenched uniforms scamper through
puddles to the bus
where pensioners scowl and cuss

“aint nowt’ to lose when you’re full of booze!”
warbles the man slumped, shoulderless
in the disabled seat
and I couldn’t help but part agree
since who was the fool?
him? or me?

‘you’ is not reserved for two

the winter covered the islands
with a low mist, gripping at my ankles, a small matter of
the excitement you gave me, the messages flooding my phone
(each beep a howl of anguish from home)
watching you laying out the loungers, through the palms
skin a deep, oily brown; eyes reflecting in the ocean

and i see two faces, the face i’ve come to know
and the face that i crave, gently riding the waves
to shore; wet and wicked and stirring something
unwanted within me.

it was a winter evening when we first met
you, stood by the open fire in the bookshop, staring into
space as the poet read aloud
and i’ve always thought since that you were
dreaming of me that night
when his words tumbled down like angels from heaven

you, more beautiful than any crashing wave
or dissolving sunset, any palm leaf shading me from
certain sins

the old man

shakes himself awake
and continues counting the stars

seagulls take flight with scraps
of peoples’ lives, the footprints
that we danced on these beaches
sinking like stones
into the sands of time

and there’s a man
who’s been out sailing, smelling of salt air
sucking on his scotch
in the harbour
watching the horizon fall like ancient civilizations
breathing in the words left only
by memories; the last of the day’s waves
creeping apologetically over settled shells

while we’re all so busy being free

Paul Robert Mullen is a poet, musician, lecturer, traveller, and sociable loner from Southport, near Liverpool, England. He enjoys bass guitar riffs, porridge, paperback books with broken spines, Leonard Cohen, and all things minimalist. He is the author of three collections published by Coyote Creek Books: curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), and 35 (2018).

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