Three Poems

by Laura Mullen

Self Veil

Kept trying to unwrap her here

It was a gift. Because it was.
Lifted in its frame of invisible stickiness

Kept prying at the edges of before

Body current under body call the slight scratch
Swerve small it in lie an aside
Moment fragile a could I

Time translated

Envelopes envelopes
For an hour they translate

For an hour they translate
What can what did happen
Will see

envelopes everything
“estrangements” breathe
additional arrangements

Traces of another attempt to agree:
Marks of the disagreement—that is.

Tissue of prevarications. I is not me.
She goes back to ‘her’ reading. Here.
Saying again “Leave your body”?

Therefore to ask her to tear herself free

No one will ever
None I’ll aver

Her me


Hell (Opens Like)

Two figures: one lingers “on the threshold” and becomes The Performer, or Poet (You decide?); the other? Approaches and disappears.

Altogether there should be three apertures or doorways, seen as exits (because we are trapped because we think we are trapped) but possible to imagine—from another point of view—as entrances. Entry wounds. Mis-spelled as woulds. The dark, etc. (Whose woulds these are / I think I… No.) Everything should be seen as being able to be seen (even if it isn’t seen) from at least two sides.

A certain hollowness made resonant by citation: “The past catches up to him!” (Almost.)

Forced to repeat not the glance itself but the instant before and the slow turn: dropping one shoulder, shifting the weight onto that foot and so forth, stretching out the open hand to…

Then the slow collapse as if shot. Subtle. Subtitle: These actions are too narrative! I’m out of here! (The slow process of being “reduced from a ‘whole’ person to a ‘tainted’ and discredited one.”) A scream.

Just the edge—we won’t go any farther. There isn’t any… I picture… I picture the edge of hell as thick with shadows, shapes of bodies, shades, indistinct and always moving, dense overlapping restless crowd, nothing but the sound of paper on paper.

Before that each movement echoed by another, as if connected by strings—or story.

“The dreamer must accept his dream” (subtitle / translation / under the action:


One shoulder drops and the neck lengthens and the eyes, they “cut” in that direction, quickly. Freeze (fame). Whatever looks back… (O, really?)

Recedes fading slowly vanishing.
“A logistical nightmare,” anyway.

Unfixed shimmer of the walls The walls
They make these days I swear
Everything’s going to…

I hadn’t realized how infected it was. The Poet
Oozing away. He escapes (alone to tell thee) from

The slurred unsteady edges of the walls, walls, walls:
The “throbbing” and the “sobbing” of the…

And “The Past Almost Catches Up!” appears:
A frightening head-
Line. Voice-
Over: A bitter dream.
He’s another person now or he’s someone who makes that claim.
“It opens like a wound.” Entrances. With a report.
Lips lifting in the smile. Started thinking (“not thinking,” we say—of this sort of mistake)
that since they were pretty much out of there anyway
it was safe…

I can see it / her
I remember it / her
I (hit her)
“As if shit were yesterday”

It’s time to file and sort this material of course let’s
What do I want                That’s what I’m asking
Why didn’t you ask me    I’m asking
Why didn’t you                Because you


“I hear a melody,” the artist said, dragging his partner
off the dance floor.
(Indeed: this is too realistic. Shoot me.)

There are all these forms
To sign.

Time versus times: and counting

“I need a way to think about intimacy.”
Then his whole body (“discredited”) turning

I picture the edge of hell as thick with figures—
A shifting uncertain space:
I am a guest and the cause of some unhappiness.

She “melts into the crowd”
Now, there’s a phrase…



1. The Protagonist

Is the center of a storm of light
Yes. What else?
I held still for the next part
Heard nothing                 Moved what I had
The protagonist
Came to a halt                 Centered there
Had to find my way past
                                          the expected
Movement                       In there, doubt (no)—not
The dark wood the middle of.... Not
Winter almost nightfall or “a series
Of self-canceling evanescences”
“The protagonist”
                                      Stopped there—
The voice or the faith in the voice
Trespass                   All I know an illuminated
Silence...—and in the center of that...

(Abandoned dropped off)


2. Term

Do not use the word in the same
They call                      They use this term
Not concerned with materials
“That clause is meaningless”
“meaningless language” a laugh
particles found in the atmosphere
that word means something else
      on earth
“here on earth”
“no complete answer”

wanted back maybe into the mixed phase before precip

although they may freeze as they make contact with it

when I use the word (when I am by the word
                                                                      die by)
“I meant”

Struggles with an inside-out umbrella
Black rag amid the broken ribs flag
Of civilization itself? Black overcoat

Black bowler hat caught exasperated
Flourishing this completely useless


Power lines thick with frozen sleet
exaggerated swoop

branches of the budding lilac bent
to almost breaking under a load of white

a late wet snowfall I


the dense imbrication of snow-laden branches a visual impression (“from my window”): the
kitchen at dawn love’s not at all austere but lonely and
not a view I would miss at all I wrote
                                        weighted with impressions feelings
“to almost breaking”    nonetheless


3. “How do I feel”?

Thinking How do I feel
Or thinking I should write
“How do I feel” write this
And then looking at the words
Measure of distance
The page went dark
The words on the page
Imagining I’d write the words

Down and leave it there
Address How do
I or began from some far off
Place Lie down and tell me how you
Yes                             Distrustful patient
No sign on the page of the struggle
The inner                    suddenly
The words made no sense


4. “Your witness”


Laura Mullen is the author of eight books: Complicated Grief is forthcoming from Solid Objects this fall. Her work has been widely anthologized. Recognitions for her poetry include Ironwood’s Frank Stanford Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award, among other honors. She has had several MacDowell Fellowships and is a frequent visitor at the Summer Writing Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. Mullen is the McElveen Professor in English at LSU and the Director of Creative Writing. Mullen’s work has been set to music by Jason Eckardt and she has collaborated on a work for chorus and percussion with Nathan Davis which premiered in La Jolla in 2014 and is slated for performances at Notre Dame and elsewhere in 2015–2016.

BOMB 132
Summer 2015
The cover of BOMB 132