Brighde Mullins









“Falling asleep seems redundant,” Insomniac says,

Since Insomniac cannot stand the pantry door open,

The closet door shut, or the stain of half-light

Through the cracked window panes, the all-night


Deli’s relentless wattage, the glamorous mangoes,

The individually wrapped ginger, the ginseng bottles

With roots inside like twisted fairy tales.

Insomniac has never been anywhere but tired:


At 3 AM in Prague tucked in with a Czech dictionary

And a picture of Kafka. Insomniac says “Words have no power.”

Bleeding heart, twisted tongue, hammering fist of sky

Dirt in my pocket, ice in my mouth.


“Etymology is arbitrary, stash up words against sunrise,”

Insomniac says “I talk to God about your problems.”

As bound to thee as thee to me

By what we have in common, the English language, the lack of sleep.


Insomniac’s got me up against the stall door,

Her tongue down my throat.  The restroom attendant

Says “No men in here.” I say He’s a She and She’s with Me,

I say it twice, to keep my urban lullabye going.


My dream has no bottom and what methinks is noisy,

Provisional, that’s how Kafka got duped till his last

Day when he wrote NOW in his journal, “Well, at least we

Have the stories,” yes, but let’s think about


Franz for a moment, shall we? What was life to him

is death to me, TRY ME, NyTol, NyQuil, Melatonin, Valerian

Root, dreams with no bottom, whisperings, plowed fields,

Causal body not lost but gone, a vanishing trick played


On the world, a mask made of feathers, starry metals,

The moon goes up, a pupil for no eye, a joint for no socket.

And the willing slide under, the ocean of print goes under,

The coastal shelf of billboards, and products and real


Estate, unrequited love, the passports, the lost children,

The veteran with one arm, the museums with their master-

Pieces, the megalopolis, the meat-eating mothers,

The Hollywood hucksters, the Greenwich village cafes,


The heterosexuals, all of them, curling into a fetal ball.

Insomniac hopes they dream in Czech or not at all.



(first published in BLACK CLOCK magazine, fall 2008)






You are backstage, waiting

Breathing in asbestos and dust.

Don’t think. Walk. Walk!

Spread your arms, darling.


There is one red cue light

That will take you center right

You are always performing

For someone in the back row.


The music’s up again:

Your hands go to your navel,

The thrust-up to your chin.

You walk.


Fifty pounds of feathers fringe

The glass shards in your hair

Cleave your bosom and your thighs

A room of fastened eyes.

You walk. Even from here

His scowl affects your posture

His sneer snags on your stocking

Undoes the tiering of your hair.


To taste the inside of your armpit

To know your body’s subtle dust.

He throws his dentures

At your feet.  You are grateful, grateful,

Grateful. And you dance among his teeth.



(from WATER STORIES, a chapbook, published by Slapering Hol Press)




Everlasting Misprision


He said Profit

I heard Prophet,

The Old Testament Variety,

the kind that shakes the after-math, makes

choices, has revelatory comments

Such as

“I am not WITH you

I am IN you.”


That’s God talking.


I’m trying to stay still

keep quiet,

listen. My ears

still ringing from the last


the battle cry I heard as a teenager,

stricken in Las Vegas where the drinks are so cheap

they’re FREE.


Back into the well, back into the money pit!


Along with the girl-friends of my youth,

whose father was a bartender,

whose father was a pit boss,

whose father was nowhere to be seen.

He was out making ends meet.

We always thought her family was in a witness

protection program

turns out


We were not far from wrong,


though we were not exactly right.

The economic situation was dire—

heartless, heartless, duck, duck,

growth.  Ordinary people, mine,

are not shouting

apprehension! Some basic

apprehension is needed!

It’s just the facts, it’s just reality,


& the Nevada Test Site (now shut down) is the perfect



Look, though: They paid well!

They did not KNOW

the aftermath, the effects of radiation

when they hired the otherwise unqualified

who also received:

cancer, cancer, cancer,

tumor, blood disease,

no education so no other job,



It was Work one was Lucky to Have It.


Whose one father drove the truck into the site

that poisoned the blood?

The Geiger counter


still ticking away

on a shelf


in the Mojave



So what if the fifty years later the whole show shuts down?


Each spigot turned–

— the fountains

of Las Vegas

where the dolphins

are trapped.

Bobby Bersoni’s Performing


are back at the zoo, & the Stardust?


The Stardust has been blown to smithereens.


What is this poem

for or against?

It is for nothing,

nothing but language,

Nothing but what Lorca said,

“I will always be on the side

of those

who have



Meantime there are the ongoing riots.


Meantime there are the memos

& the post it notes.

Amazing what you can do

with a politician

in your pocket

Will you come in

from watering your

lawn long enough to grieve?


Blundering genius juxtapositions.


It’s just a microcosm,

it’s just a close up,

it’s just the aperture,

it’s just one particular

story.   No beginning,

no middle,

& apparently,

no ending.













Brighde Mullins’ plays include Rare Bird; Monkey in the Middle ; Those Who Can, Do; Fire Eater; Topographical Eden; Pathological Venus, The Bourgeois Pig and are published by Playscripts, Inc. Awards include: Guggenheim, United States Artists Award; a Whiting; an NEA Fellowship; the Jane Chambers Award, as well as a Gold Medal from The Pinter Review. She holds MFA’s from Yale and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She has taught at Brown University and was the Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University (where she was also a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Playwriting), as well as CalArts, Queens University of Charlotte, U.S.C. and U.C.S.B. She served as Writer in Residence at Deep Springs College, a working ranch and innovative center of liberal education in the Sierra Nevada Region of California. She is working on a new play commissioned by the Pioneer Theatre of Salt Lake City, a play that explores the life and impact of the poet Phillis Wheatley. Check out her musings about Samuel Beckett at

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