Photography © Edward S. Gault


Civic Duty

A mother’s pinpricked heart learns hardness
from childhood’s stone, throat stretched with cries
hollows—the cocoon abandoned. Some of these
throats find filling comes easy—merciful

curses, amnestic, obliterating rage will stalk
down the hall, find the children, be the
dark, hulking shape that makes them
mind. In the street the son is all teeth,

tears buds, discovers blood can seep
from anything—how momma screams, claws
his arm, prehistoric explorer searching
for marrow—will rip the resemblance off.

Heading up the walk, behind locked doors
neighbors shake heads—How to get to
sleep with that racket! Do we speak
or risk retaliation—that little devil whose

looking for a place to put shattered dreams
has seen us too many times to forget
that we’ve never done a goddamned thing.
Reads our minds—so perceptive is his rage,

understands we are waiting for the day he grows up
and kills. Like a psychic with a high-definition
crystal ball, his life is laid out, and we are silent
witnesses now, though if called to testify

or serve on the jury, we certainly will report,
be assured we’ll do our civic duty.


Coleen T. Houlihan is a graduate of Wellesley College. She has published poetry in Main Street Rag, Poesy, Bellowing Ark, The Alewife, The Wilderness House Literary Review, Ibbetson Street Press, Spoonful: A Gathering of Stone Soup Poets, MoJo! The Maps One Journal, Spare Change and others.

Edward S. Gault is a poet and fine art photographer. He lives at Mosaic Commons, a co-housing community in Berlin, Ma. He has a wife Karen, and daughter.