Four Poems|Ian Mullins

Behind The Bar

Paddling in piss, the gents

unblocked, I steer a course

back behind the bar.

Lisa pulls her last half-pint

while I count the tips

and lock the doors.


We wait for our lifts in the

drooling rain. A police car

slows down to examine

our faces, turning off its siren

as it splashes us by.


I ask her if she’s still

painting: she says yes,

when she can find the time.

She wants to know if I still write.

I tell her that’s like

asking a twelve year-old

if he enjoys playing with himself.


Rainy earrings drip gutters

from her lobes. Her nails

are longer these days, no longer

cracked or crusted

with paint. When she leans

close to steal my umbrella

I can’t smell white spirits

on her neck anymore. They say

a man facing the firing squad

knows one rifle is loaded with blanks,

but here every glass is charged;

the end is served in half-pints

and doubles sipped at the bar. We drink

slowly, to taste it going down.


Lisa’s car sluices the gutter’s rain.

She runs sideways through

the drops, broken glass glistening

in her hair. I close my umbrella

and look up at the rain

filling my pockets with change.



The Play’s The Thing

Look at them, smiling on the red carpet

unrolled exclusively for them.

The little lambs of Hollywood are happy

tonight; their sand-box is well-guarded,

and there are gold stars for everyone:

the tiny threads of their imaginary lives

are stitched beneath their feet,

completion guaranteed.


Those of us in humbler professions

dream our lives too; but ours

are constantly re-edited, bristling

with frayed edges and threads

that peter out, while theirs are credited

and complete. They can rewind

like dead hindus stopping off

between lives to look back at the roles

they’ve flopped in before, wondering

if they might try comedy next.


It’s no wonder they all believe in God.

They lead their lives with the innocence

of the other Clarice Starling, the one

who peeped into the slaughterhouse

then ran back to bed, only trusting

to her dreams to keep the lambs

from screaming. Refusing to believe

until she hears ‘cut!’ that it really is

a wrap.




I ask the same questions

small children ask;

why is the sky, why is the rain?

Why is the work? Why can’t

I spend my days the way

I want to spend my days,

burning up banknotes

then walking into banks

with a gun made of soap,

telling everyone to get down

and get clean; spring break forever…


But questions betray

the dreamers who ask them;

the cries we shout

before we leap from the bridge,
swallow the last pill. Finding no answers

in this world, and despairing

of solutions in the next,

we opt out of all asking, all life.
Just go back to bed

till the nightmare is done.
In a world built on dreams,
why would anyone choose to awake?


Room Temperature

Miles Davis/Miles Smiles


Hear how the music plays

the room. Miles’ trumpet

slides down the grooves

in the radiator, picking off

shreds of paint the way

a sniper takes out a rifle.

Shorter lobs hand grenades,

though not every one is primed


to explode. Some are quiet

decoys, clearing a path

for Hancock to dart through,

bullets ricocheting from

the ceiling, cartridges dead

on the carpet. Carter reloads

while Williams slap the drapes

in time to an old tune

new minted here, falling from

fat speakers and winging it

across the dance floor.


Now Miles is a squiggly kid

running round the room. Soon

the whole house is swinging;

neighbours and street

all whistling the same tune.

Passers-by bend into the beat

as though a storm-wind is blowing,

vibes rattling the breath

they breathe, the bones they break;

touch and tone passing a pulse

to every stranger they meet


as Miles packs his bags,

getting ready to move.

Photo by Mike Cho on Unsplash


Ian Mullins ships out from Liverpool, England.
The music-themed poetry collection Laughter In The Shape Of A Guitar (UB) struck few chords in 2015. The chapbook Almost Human (Original Plus), concerning his ongoing battle with Asperger Syndrome, was released into the care of the community in 2017. The novel Number 1 Red, a tale of pro-wrestling and property wars, was self-published the same year. The superhero-themed collection Masks and Shadows (Wordcatcher) took to the skies in 2019 and refuses to come down to earth. Take A Deep Breath (Dempsey & Windle) took its first gasp in November 2020.

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