“Exurbanite Lament” by J. B. Mulligan

I miss the clouds of the city sky at night
holding the reflection on city light like rain,
a soft grey awning of delicate silk.

I still have the day: the incoherent orchestra
of traffic playing the Ode to Hurry Hurry;
the obelisk buildings stretching block after block,
monuments to commerce – or mounds of drunken termites;
the stores announcing sales like the Apocalypse;
the quiet neighborhoods, dogs trotting
from tree to hydrant to streetlight, and children
walking in clusters home from school
laughing loudly, as if life were a bar or a party.

A city like a river raging with fish.

I still have the raw red sky over Jersey
at the end of the day, the rites of the corporate tribe
locked away in drawers until tomorrow.

But the night, the neon campfire’s celebration,
the giant amusement park ride of movies,
dance clubs, sports bars, restaurants,
the slack faces of strangers walking slowly home,
lovers frowning or laughing, walking hand in hand,
the geese-gaggle jabbering of nomads gathering fun.

I miss the voyage on the anonymous sea of night,
the boats of so many nations nearby,
the great clans gathering at harvest time,
the loud living trumpet of the human race
blowing its song of joy and desolation
under a pale grey heaven pregnant with rain.
The eternal candle of New York, of home.




J. B. Mulligan has published more than 1100 poems and stories in various magazines over the past 45 years and has had two chapbooks: The Stations of the Cross and This Way to the Egress, as well as two ebooks: The City of Now and Then, and A Book of Psalms (a loose translation). He has appeared in more than a dozen anthologies and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize anthology.

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