JB Mulligan

on maps of the known world

(From a New York Times review of an exhibit of the map of China created in the early 17th century by Matteo Ricci, SJ:  In northern Russia, we are told, there is a “Country of Dwarfs” in which “the inhabitants, both male and female, are only about 1 foot high.”  “Being constantly devoured by cranes,” Ricci explains,” they have to live in caves in order to escape,” at least until they emerge to “destroy the eggs of their enemies, riding on goats.”)

They galloped through a northern land,
twelve inches tall, a marauding band
of goat-riders, seeking the carelessly hidden
nests, to massacre eggs, and when

the dwarfivore cranes came flapping back,
to flee to their caves, to plan new attacks….
So science, in its infancy,
creates a novel, magical theory

to map the worlds within the world –
to count the fires heaven-hurled
through space expanding, count the motes
in smaller, fluctuating bits

until the birds and little men
are vanishing echos of eras when
they knew much less than we know now
(although they knew for sure, somehow)….

So science ventures out from caves
beneath fierce skies, as knowledge braves
the devastation of novel theories,
discovering new, true mysteries.


walk into dawn

Light emanates from the motion detector
over the neighbor’s garage.
Snow in the sacks of the clouds hovering
waits for release.  The urge

to make of this sensory input… sense,
implacable as the dawn
waiting behind the stacked-up horizons,
to shoulder through night and return

as now there’s a lingering flash among shadows.
as a TV within flashes bright
Irregular dancing of shapes through the windows,
strange fish at the bottom of night.

Dark currents above slap the shores of forever,
retreat into cloud-foam, and then
The blubberous beast of this sweet universe
begins to breathe out once again.

© JB Mulligan

JB Mulligan has had poems and stories in several hundred magazines over the past 40 years, has had two chapbooks published: The Stations of the Cross and THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS, and two e-books, The City Of Now And Then, and A Book of Psalms (a loose translation from the Bible). He has appeared in several anthologies, among them, Inside/Out: A Gathering of Poets; The Irreal Reader (Café Irreal); and multiple volumes of Reflections on a Blue Planet.

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