If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany

25 Oct

If I Falter at the Gallows
Edward Mullany
Publishing Genius Press, 83 pages, $12

The first book I ever read from Publishing Genius Press was Easter Rabbit by Joseph Young, a book of sparse, tight microfiction. I read the book in a single sitting. It wasn’t just for the contest. I remember distinctly the feeling of language bending. One of my favorite things about Publishing Genius is how often their books force me to reimagine and rearrange my ideas of what language can and should be, what language can and should do.

I sat down to read Edward Mullany’s If I Falter at the Gallows at 11:15 last night. At 12:04, I finished. My cat was asleep against my leg. The house was quiet and dim. A feeling of futility wrestled at my arms and chest. I wanted to read Ecclesiastes, but I didn’t want to wake my cat. I wanted to do a lot of things, but didn’t want to wake my cat. Against all the futility I felt, there was something purposeful in its slow, plodding breath.

I keep saying futility. Let me explain.

Mullany’s poems are as equally sparse as Young’s Easter Rabbit, but there is a futility in Mullany’s lines that brought to my chest a feeling I’ve been wrestling with the past few months, a “what does anything matter” question that is perhaps as cliche’ as it is historic, that’s perhaps best exemplified in the poem “Important”:

The newspaper said a painter who is dead and whose
paintings are exhibited in museums in the country
he spent most of his life in, as well as in museums in
other countries, would have been one hundred today.

I read that poem over at least 5 times last night, I thought of the painter’s life, I thought of my life. I laughed. My cat stirred. I laughed more quietly.

I went back and reread previous poems, the dark and quiet irony of “Important” coloring everything now.

I read “A Suicide in the Family,” and understood the how useless words can be:

The doorbell rings. Or a mountain
speaks to a mountain

in a language only
mountains understand.

I read “The Birthday Present Analogy”, and finally got the joke:

Inside the box, you
find another

box. And so
on. It is only

a joke if
there is a first

and a final

After I stopped laughing, I sent an email. I picked up my cat, cradled her in my arms. I carried her in to bed and rested her next to my wife. I took off my glasses, plugged my phone in to charge, set my alarm for the morning.

I have plenty to do before I find the final box. And so do you. You have this book to read at least. Whatever you do after that, do it well, and take care.

2 Responses to “If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany”


  1. Another reaction to If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany « - October 31, 2011

    […] wrote a wonderful personal response to If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany last week, a wonderful book of poems released by […]

  2. If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany | Publishing Genius Press - December 16, 2011

    […] Bosworth’s review at the Outsider Writers Collective Christopher Newgent’s review at Vouched Tyler Gobble’s review at Vouched Joseph Young responds at Very Small Dogs J. A. Tyler’s […]

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