Two Poems by James Mulhern



You know the class

when a question asked

“hurts someone’s feelings,”

considered a “microaggression” or “trigger.”


When the discussion dissolves

and a student’s “fragility” flashes

on the marquee—“Hurt Feelings.”

The lesson is 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 the 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.


Current Events


One day there is no news.

The anchors stare at empty teleprompters.

Eyes wide and twitching, lips quivering,

they look into the camera.


We change channels.

See black screens or people scrambling on sets.

They pass blank papers and whisper.

We can’t hear them and don’t care.


Too tired to move, we stare

through windows at trees and sky.

The wind blows and birds fly.

Somewhere snow falls and thunder booms.


But not here. There is no weather.

No drama, conflict, or story.

No wars, crimes, or political crises.

No empty talk. No sound and fury.


In a forest, sitting on a sycamore,

Thoreau’s wood thrush sings.

Deep in a dark sea cave,

the Emperor angelfish knocks.


The lesson ends

as the bell rings.

Students walk,

and someone slams the door.