“The Carving Tree”, “Evidence of a Struggle” and “Unbearably Gone”

by Melissa Mulvihill

The Carving Tree

I was not born in these kinds of waters
but I came to believe and to canoe away
on the river of silty glass
bugs skating the surface
sunlight pouring into me
laughter echoing off the empty
voices raised, poles poised, fish fleeing upstream even.

This is before I am other people
when there is nothing to gather
but Stroh’s, sandwiches, weed, and
some fishing poles out of someone’s garage.
I had not yet walked knee deep in
the Kokosing muck in a flimsy pair of Keds
and learned why
I would do such a thing.
The sound of Lake Erie shushing around its
boulders or warring with itself had not
cut through me, deep, the voice of desire and struggle.
Silvercreek had not glistened
beneath Cliff House
an open vein of change
bleeding hope and fear
and my gaze from the center of Lake Ontario
had not consumed the burning sun
over the edge of the earth
while raising the moon
high in the dusky dim.

I was not born in these kinds of waters
the warm breeze full of friends lazily gliding
pontificating and fooling
up onto the gravely sand bank at the shady bend
snagging Stroh Fish empties from a previous upset.
We tromp with no point or intention except
to shelter under the looming protective branches
of the carving tree someone has placed here for us
hopes and dreams etched straight up its soul
Jayla loves Sam
C.W. hearts L.K 4ever
Zeb was here
Fuck the man.

This is before I am other people
and I long to drift away along the Middle Fork
and sway in the branches
or wade the shallows by myself not saying anything
but recording everything to memory, to places
where such things are held until they are needed.
This is when the magnificent tree
in the bend of the river
where the water churns for years
in pools of doubt
before moving on
calls to me and I wonder then
if broken people ever carve things in trees.

I was not born in these kinds of waters
with a tendency to meander without worry
and to whoop with joy with fistfuls of attitude
but I came to believe and to canoe away
to the bend with the tree
carved by people who knew what to say.

Now I am other people
and these things are needed
so I know what to carve.

Evidence of a Struggle

In my dream I knew
why you were lying on the davenport
at 5:53 am
your red velvet housecoat
pulled up around your chin.

I stood faced pressed against
the shuttered slats of the bedroom door
creeping so close to the crack between the two
panels that sweet varnish
filled my head
and the loneliness of you
breakable and unguarded
pinched between the two doors
bunched up my chest
and pounded my ears.

The front room glowed
with the hum of a white
collared man with no
beginning or end
pulling his voice
up and down the ladder of believability
as he called blessing upon blessing
down upon his audience
which made me wonder what
does it mean to call a blessing down
upon another
as if someone can ever know
what moves a heart
what rips a soul
what shreds a spirit.

Didn’t this man
ever learn that all sins
will be forgiven except
the ones that can’t be?

In my dream your eyes were
not ringed with shadows of grey
and your night did not spill
its guts all over the beginning
of your day
leaving your face a trail of clues
as obvious as the tracks my kids
leave when they’re up to
their shit when I am gone.

Then, though, I had no idea
why you clutched the heating pad
that way in the wee hours of the day
while the white collared man prattled on
since I had never known you
to be religious a day
in your life.

His voice emptied me out
as I tried to fall back to sleep
staring at my pile of freshly folded
clothes washed sometime in the night
now a monument
to the evidence of a struggle
as they perched on the
embroidered seat of
the little rocking chair
by the bed.

Unbearably Gone

Once I sat in a haven of
eternality
a monument to saying farewell
to loved ones
fragrant with lilies and flowing with
meaningful words
comforted by a family with decades of
integrity
in handling my loved one’s
grieving moments

Except instead of a haven of
eternality
I was in a mausoleum of temporary
trickery
and there were no lilies to rescue
my tongue
thick and rank with the noisome
remnants
of bodies trying to leave this
world

Once I left you to rest in the
heavenly slumber
of your casket kept alive by
faith and devotion
with inspirational words of
peace and wisdom
written by me and tucked in your satin
forever resting place

Except instead of leaving you
to rest
you were stored away in this
hole
for broken things temporarily
fixed up
and instead of speaking any words
at all
I was sick from the noxious fumes of
death
and the absurd illusion
of forever

Once I sat through your end of life
celebration
while I unraveled at the walls people
built
under the burden of their
grief
I suppose
they set about making
funerals

This was the first
of many places
where I found you
unbearably gone.

About the Author

Melissa Mulvihill

Website

Melissa Mulvihill writes from northeast Ohio where she lives with her husband and sons, 17 and 22. Recently she has been published in The Blue Nib Literary Magazine, The Write Launch, Poet's Haven Digest, Strange Land Anthology, and The Distance Between Insanity and Genius Anthology. Her poem, "Your Phone Call", appeared in The Blue Nib 2017 Anthology. She has a B.A. in psychology from Kenyon College and an M.A. in counseling from John Carroll University and now spends a ridiculous amount of time reading poetry, talking to her dog, Luna(tic), and consuming dystopian fiction while building her perfect zombie apocalypse survival team.