James Mulhern

James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over one hundred and fifty times and has been recognized with many awards. In 2015, Mr. Mulhern was granted a writing fellowship to Oxford University. That same year, a story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019. He was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2021 for his poetry. Recently, two of his novels were Finalists for the United Kingdom’s Wishing Shelf Book Awards.

Hurt Feelings

You know the meeting
when a question asked
“makes someone feel bad,” 
considered a “microaggression” or “trigger.”

When the discussion dissolves
and a person’s “fragility” flashes
on the marquee—“Hurt Feelings.”
The discourse disregarded
like a raised hand ignored.

My grandmother lived in a dirt-floor house,
strut one mile to a well,
slept in a bed with two siblings
and a few fire-warmed bricks.
Never once said, “My feelings are hurt,”
wouldn’t have understood “fragility”—
her schooling stopped in sixth grade.

Most mornings, she knelt, said her rosary,
then walked over a broken-planked porch,
hugged a wooden pail, stepped onto earth,
and trekked to the water.

Homeward, she gingerly avoided stones
that stabbed, bruised, and hurt her feet,
but still she whispered blessings to the wind.

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