Bethany Mary on “Like Waters” by JR Mahung

JR Mahung’s literary creation, “Like Waters,” is both a tidal force and a gentle flow. It is teaching someone how to dance and not caring if they step on your feet, just wanting to twirl in some comfortable space with them. It is a lesson that if you keep searching for perfection, you’ll miss all the chances you have. It is not settling, it is enjoying the universe as it is, by listening:

“listen. if it calms you / can we spin this night / into some kind of happiness? /…let your feet move sure. we could do so much worse.”

Mahung moves easily from star stuff to beautiful earthy imagery, the terra cotta and topaz of ancient civilizations and human hearts. You can miss people a lot when you bother to find out what they are made of. An illustration, courtesy of Angelica Maria, of floating archaeology tools accompanies one poem. The glasses in the middle suggest a bodiless person excavating, someone who could be anyone and who is willing to uncover anyone, if only for the wild mystery of it.

A smiling pancake face supplements the breakfast poem, but it has perhaps the sharpest tone, more like a knife or ice than water. It is more commanding than beseeching, giving the order rather than permission to spit out whatever is not to their taste. What if you find a part of someone that is not to your liking, after all your carving and digging and scooping, trying to spot a gem in the dirt or gold in the water? You can empty your hands and plunge in again. This is life, an opportunity, art that you can shape.

Jr Mahung Like Waters

Mahung writes,

“i was not blessed / with monet’s artistry but i understand / some moments look better from afar.”

He writes to closely connect and inspect truth and love. There is patience here with how long it can take to understand things, how long it can take to get wherever youJr Mahung Like Waters 2 want to go. There is the image of rubber hugs that can stretch all around you, a song of excitement and caution, living life to the fullest despite mistakes and disasters and instruments with snapped strings. Mahung and Maria, with their combination of words and pictures, craft a strikingly beautiful symphony. They will change your eyes, lips, voice, and heart, making you softer.

There is a tenderness about these poems, smooth dreamy language, making a “marionette’s fantasy” to carry lovers until they fall and shatter and reconstruct themselves together so “they will dance / like waters love.” These poems pronounce love as a feeling that can combat loneliness and emotional wounds, or at least split those pains between two people so they are not as intense. It doesn’t matter how dark the world is or how broken bodies are, they will find rest and heaven as long as they are tied together. What inspiration and affirmation, within just a handful of pages.


((Pizza Pi Press, Poetry, 2015)

BETHANY MARY is a meditative tea snob studying gerontology in Minnesota. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and now reads submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. As an asexual advocate for a sexual assault center and blogger for Resources for Ace Survivors, she focuses on boundaries and mental health in her own writing. Some of her work is out in the world, and she rants on Twitter @bethanylmary.