Maggie Dubris

 

Not Only Love: New and Collected Poems 1975-2003

Not Only Love: New and Collected Poems 1975-2003Not Only Love: New and Collected Poems 1975-2003
by Richard McMullen
published by Patrick J. Powers
Crowfoot Press
Powers & Co.
1540 Northwood
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Summer afternoons we waited
for the iceman in his monster truck.
He never spoke or smiled,
trudged to the back of the truck-
we felt the air of winter
on our faces and our eyes; we smelled
the snow and the frozen river-
(from "Ice")

When I read those lines I shivered, and an alien world became instantly familiar. Poet Richard McMullen, a retired high school teacher, has spent nearly all his 79 years in the small town of Milan, Michigan. In Not Only Love: New and Collected Poems 1975-2003 (Crowfoot Press, 2005), he chronicles those years with such lyricism and quiet passion that his poems sang in my mind long after I finished them, drawing me back again and again,

It was a bird spun down the wind
That, near me, bled, something from the sun.
(from "A Witnessing")

McMullen works with simple language, layered in such a way as to carry the reader through a world that branches endlessly, into a lifetime of riches.

Like Heaven

It is late June, nine
At night. He is on his knees
In the garden, pulling weeds.
A slight breeze, the birds asleep, a few
Mosquitoes. This could be
Like heaven, he thinks.

One June
the year she broke
her hip, Aunt Ida sat
on a lawn chair in the sun
away from mosquitoes and watched him work in his garden.
He said, Wouldnít it be great if heaven
turned out to be just like this?
Aunt Ida cried. It didnít
take much to make
Aunt Ida cry.

He is still sad that she
cried, though. He stops weeding.
Back then, it seemed like such
a good heaven: work in a garden,
a town a lot like Milan,
and no mosquitoes.

When a poem exposes the common thread that runs beneath the events and details that separate us from one another, then weaves it seamlessly back into itself, the poem becomes universal. Not Only Love is filled with such poems.

Wall Weed

Back then, we all drove secondhand cars. That meant
On longer trips the car always broke down
Or we had a flat tire. That happened one
Spring on a trip to Alma. I got out. Across the road
I notices a weed. It grew against the white wall
Of a building, in the middle, alone. It said, Me, look at me!
I did, and the weed grew more distinct.
The sun shone on it more intensely. It seemed to grow
Without growing. Something important-I never doubted that.
But somehow I had to get the car started.

As I was writing this, I thought, what can I say about Richard McMullen? His poems are just poems--perfectly illuminating the strands of a life lived in our times, then shining that light out into the universe.

Like many poets, McMullenís work has been appreciated by other writers, but never reached the wider audience it deserves. I was lucky enough to be sent Not Only Love by an old friend, or I would never have stumbled across it. Itís a book as rich and varied as the human heart, and I can only say--read it! Tell your friends about it! Send it to people who think they donít like poetry--and show them what poetry can be!