Melissa Mulvihill

I write from northeast Ohio where I live with my husband who is an attorney, with our two sons, 18 and 23, and our labradoodle, Luna(tic). In 1990 I graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in psychology and in 1996 I graduated with an M.A. in Counseling from John Carroll University. My work appears in multiple issues of The Blue Nib Literary Magazine, The Write Launch Literary Magazine, The Feminine Collective, and in Poet’s Haven Digest anthologies. 

I Am a Bridge

I am a boulder in a stream that winds wild
a ford in a river that rushes cold
unyielding to outsiders.
 I’ll hold your place while you wade the shallows
navigate the waters that test you
without a compass.

 I am a walking stick of petrified wood
smooth and stony, worn shiny
where you have placed your hand
again and again and again
 leaning heavily, rising tall
 then grasping hold to stave off the fall.
I am a path walker by your side
a preserver of footsteps
waiting to be mapped
rather than buried under or brushed aside
for my own way
 for my own journey.
I am a noticer of moments,
feeling the flickering of your eyes fatigued and worn
the wiping of a palm along the cheek of your frustrated face
 the hunching of your young shoulders
the shifting of your tone ever so subtly wavering, wobbling
 that screams to me louder than any spoken words.


I am a blanket for warmth
 light or heavy, to be spread or folded for later
rather than a chilly vessel empty
telling you to cover yourself
to calm yourself alone
to be like me, to think like me.
I am a listener for your message
a page turner for your story
a searcher for your truth
that may take a lifetime to reveal itself
to define itself, to circle back
and understand itself.
I am a gatherer,
scouting for signs, marking the trail, improving the shelter,
for incoming storms
that pace the horizon
lurching forth hoping to lay waste to you
seeking to slow you, longing to separate you from the group.
 I am a sentry
armed with patience
that won’t give way
 or fail you while you venture forth,
stumbling, bounding away
mistaking going for knowing, bringing back ideas
and tales of that which is other than me.
I am a pillow for your head
beckoning you home
when staying seems wrong but going is dangerous
because I was mothered
 held by women selfless
shown with actions by souls not fragile.
 Nurtured not rejected  through conflict,
I was pulled when pushing was futile,
led out the other side with my heart intact,
under the spell of devotion
to raising me
 rather than being offended by my mistakes.
 
Not fatally annoyed by my missteps
not inconvenienced by my childish needs,
my women did not fall forgetful
that to mother me from birth to death was to face me every day
to be my glue when I was undone
and to release me when I was free enough to go.
I am a bridge
from my mother
to you
my sons
where only love
can pass.

Mean Free Path

Dear Universe,

My son is roaring in the disquiet
audible and inaudible frequencies
a glorious vibrating molecule
prancing across the southern sky
caterwauling at Sagittarius A

generating his own powerful
electromagnetic field of misdoubt
he is a beautiful magnetized maelstrom
holding on the brink of his own
supermassive black hole

humming to itself
in peaks and troughs
the infrared sound
colliding with my ears
on this groaning planet

you will know him by his
proximity
to nearby objects
the cosmic ripples he creates
as relativistic jets crash against him

he is his own direction
in the vastness of his space
Dear Universe
help him calculate a mean free path
there is so much stuff to run into in the universe.

Cacti Toucher

1.
When you were brand new
my arms aching from the lack of armrests
on the chairs in the hospital
where I held you like a truth that was undefinable

and it was not permissible to entertain
the greatest of doubts or wish the I could
consume the stars with you
rather than with ferocity scold a nurse

for suggesting that I leave you with her
to insert an IV in your head
after she had missed five veins
five times.

The bunnies on her uniform seemed misleading
and the driest air I had ever breathed
could not escape the anonymously staring
windows screenless and suffocating.
2.
When you were less new
and more weatherworn you came
thundering into the tent
after hiking for hours

the scent of wet grass, fire, and freedom
burning in you like a solar wind needing
to blow to eternity with every tale to tell
until you were calm with sleep.

I thought that none of us were the same
people we were when this thing started.
Doctors said you would be better by 6 months,
fine by 18 months

their distance mounting like a tempest
in search of fair weather. One even
accused me. And I let her make off with my
compass. For a while.

In the glow of the dewy moon
the tent heavy with the 3 am sighing of
your safe slumber and to the warning calls
of coyotes I claimed it back.

3.
When you were growing old
the water hung in the night sky
half snow half ice shooting tendrils
of starbursts slicing straight up

into the blackness like the unsheathed
sword of Masamune shining with
superior beauty and purity
hovering above the lights on the slopes

where you pounded the powder
edges dug in deep. Everyone said
they had never seen such a phenomenon
faces in their phones

fingers frantically flying over search engines
needing to know if this thing
had been named. I knew it was you though,
a reoccurring

katana manifested by Sephiroth at will
but sheathed during peace times and
carried with the strength of a thousand warriors.
My skyward gaze held my frozen tears.

5.
Before there was Google and removal
of fine hair like cacti spines from the hand
of a toddler was not a chapter in
What to Expect from World Touchers

when the scent of your hair clung to my heart
when every song was you stirring in my soul
when I didn’t flinch in the nights
long with anxiety and wakefulness

I knew you when you could not. As you
intruded on the world full of spirited dashing
flying off basement stairs into lands of
pillows gorgeous cardboard wings

dauntless and declaring
thoroughly insistent in your protestations
launching fearlessly in your certainty
I admired you.

6.
When you step into this world
casting about for a hold
lifting your voice
I disband my army of uncertainty

In favor of no single interpretation
of you and with no warnings to heed
the stab of such infinitesimally hard to remove
barbs on the cacti of life.

Carry tweezers, my son. 

A Measurable Objective

Here’s to my boys
who romp and leap
and conquer and think
and ask and make
and dig and search
and joke and create
and learn all of the ways
to break things apart
and build them new again.

Here’s to my boys
who tolerate poetry
but prefer swords
and rocks and dirt
and bikes and soaring
over mound of snow
and leaping off cliffs
into quarries and huddling
around fires at night.

And to you, my boys,
I swear on my motherhood
that I will never confine you to that
which undoes you or attempts conformity
in the name of supposed progress
or measurement or any other such nonsense
that attempts to hold you in place in a chair
in front of standardized teeny circles
on endless pieces of paper that mean nothing.

If all you ever learn
is a measurable objective
then I have failed you.

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