That fall day we raked leaves from behind the shed.
Smell of earth and wet decay rose in the cold air.
We could see our breath.

Worms and beetles scattered through a fence.
I saw dirt and thought we had finished.
“Not yet,” you said.

The gray sky grew darker and the wind chilled.
When your flashlight showed not a speck of leaf,
you said, “We’re done.”

Today I look at the wet leaves below.
I kneel and clear your grave.
Again, I smell the earth and feel the biting cold.

The damp leaves shimmer like tears, not many,
that drop on the yellowed grass.
“We’re done,” I hear you say.

I say a prayer, cross myself, and rise.
I see my breath and imagine I see yours.
I should leave, I think, but not yet.

Meet the Poet!

James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over one hundred and seventy-five times, and has been recognised 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. Two of his novels were Finalists for the United Kingdom’s Wishing Shelf Book Awards. 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.