All About Love – Musings on Paul Robert Mullen’s Relationship with Love and Companionship

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It is a truism, that love is the language of our films, music, and literature. Whether we like it or not, the theme of love (and all its connotations) is all pervasive, inescapably so. Even the conversations and statements of strength and independence are weighed down by their relationship to love and romance. Consider Emma Watson’s assertion that, ‘I’m happy being single, I call it self-partnered’. Seemingly to be in love, to be in a relationship is the norm by which we define ourselves. Undoubtedly, love and romance are deeply rooted within our lives, and it is almost impossible to talk about yourself without touching on the issue.

Perhaps, society’s obsession with love is linked to hope for a brighter future. In all about love, bell hooks writes about a statement emblazoned on a wall she would pass daily en route to Yale University, it read, ‘The search for love continues even in the face of great odds’. This suggests that love is something that as humans, as social creatures we pine for. What this graffiti confirms to me, is that love as a concept, is something we search for in the everyday.

red heart and man hanging drawing

I write this after reading two poems from my co-editor, Paul Robert Mullen. Paul and I have a number of things in common, but perhaps one thing that separates us is our relationship status. While I am a happily married man, Paul describes himself as happily unmarried. Now, Paul has an incredible ability to blend his own life-experience with his poetic voice, they are definitely not one in the same, but he blurs that line expertly. Two of his poems that deal with regret, with that search for a partner are somewhere in the countryside and unreachable.

somewhere in the countryside (originally published by Words for the Wild) is a tender poem, that recognises the sweetness of being in love. Seemingly, for the poet-speaker, to be without, is to be ‘outside the situation’ looking in. The language that describes the meeting of old friends, ‘joyful’, ‘sweet’, and ‘life’ are juxtaposed with words that describe life sans love, ‘agony’, ‘cold’, and ‘stillness’. In the middle of this poem, we find something akin to a volta, we learn why the poet-speaker may feel as they do, ‘you never called me’. Therefore, at heart of this poem lies deep regret, that has developed into something like an act of self-flagellation, that is drinking alone, listening to the velvet voice of Tony Bennett. There is a rawness to this poem, that is all the more meaningful because this is something that we all understand as humans.

In Mullen’s unreachable (originally published in Dream Noir) the suggestion is the poet-speaker here is perhaps undeserving of love and affection. As much as the speaker cannot find love, he is equally elusive. Indeed, just as the quote from all about love suggests that we are constantly in search of love and companionship, this poet-speaker here wonders ‘is this it ’? This is a succinct story, of a man who has traversed the planet in search of the seemingly unattainable. No matter how many ‘peaks’, ‘cities’, and ‘pathways’ have been trodden, something has always been out of reach, ‘you and yours/ […] further/ and further away’.

In these two poems, Mullen writes of the wilderness, of searching and longing. The fact that this is such an integral part of the human condition bestows this work with a gravitas. While I believe that finding happiness within the self is of paramount importance, I also contend that the ability to share that with another soul is the most fulfilled one can become.

         

red and black boat on river during daytime

somewhere in the countryside

the barge pulled in to dock                  voices

of those on-board joyful.

the clink of glasses                  a toast to returning

friends             sweet memories          life.

standing outside the situation            

raising my eyes from wet palms        

the agony of calm                    the stillness

of meadows stretched out over deep

contours          like rugs of olive-rusty browns

            and golds and auburn tan

spring is in the air                   cold draught blowing

through the stairwell as i return to

locked doors                a note hanging limp

inside the letter box

            you never called me                it says.

i rattle keys                 lock the world out

            for another night

malbec wine & single malt                  playing with

the poem under lucid carrot glow

                          listening to Tony Bennett

electric fan buzzing like an inflamed porthole                  

warming me from ankle up.

            and i never will         i scribble, sign, slip into an envelope.

a lone farmhouse                     just the outline

through the study window

            standing its ground at dusk

girl in blue shirt walking on pathway between green grass field during daytime

 

unreachable

the continents have become

small strides

i have trembled upon peaks

breathed the darkness
of lairs

untouched

witnessed the peace

of dawn

skimming dampness off the clouds

with wings bound

for something / somewhere

pierced the hum and haze

of a thousand cities

with hardened feet

and softened mind

i have trodden the pathways

of legends and lunatics

gripped the same bars               unsteady             5am

as spirits scratching at the years to get back

ridden time-zones

like roller coasters at the origin

of everything

 

held a hundred faceless loves

wondering is this it

 

watched my youth roll away

then gently return (from time to time)

with tides

on outlandish beaches

 

written words like these

to help me hang on / believe it all

 

i’ve done all that               
    probably more

though every step i take

towards you and yours

always takes me further

and further

and further away.

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