Scoundrel Time

Ultima Multis

The polishing
rag folded inside a
bespoke vest I purchased
on impulse has a name
sewn on by hand:
Ultima Multis.

And when I’m shining
my mouth harps after
a solitary session of practice,
I ask the piece of flag
if she knows when,
When will this end?

All of us who breathed out
and breathed in music
now ask our songs
to ask the same question
that everyone asks:
When will this end?

When will this
our plastic curtains drawn
around our right to contagion,
to final desperate drags
from machine lungs –
when will this end?

Ultima, weren’t we citizens of a
rowdy, unbuckled band
finding then losing the
groove and tipping in new
players who’d blow us apart,
who’d knock off our crowns?

Ultima, Ultima Multis,
were we – before our
breath-crushing hatred of the
world’s strange other songs  –
were we beautiful in our big
first hours of shining sound?

I ask you. I ask you this,
Ultima. Ultima Multis.


Kevin McIlvoy‘s novel, One Kind Favor, was recently published by WTAW Press. He is the author of five other novels: At the Gate of All Wonder, Hyssop, Little Peg, The Fifth Station, and A Waltz; a short story collection, The Complete History of New Mexico; and a collection of short fictions and prose poems, 57 Octaves Below Middle C. His newest poems appear in Consequence, The Night Heron Barks, Willow Springs, The Shore, Barzakh, River Heron Review, LEON, The Georgia Review, Still, Superstition Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other magazines. For twenty-seven years he was editor in chief of the literary magazine, Puerto del Sol. He taught in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program in Creative Writing from 1987 to 2019, and as a Regents Professor of Creative Writing in the New Mexico State University MFA Program from 1981 to 2008. Kevin McIlvoy passed away in September, 2022