Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmastime in America

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


You see the oddest things
at Christmastime in America.
The bigger the city,
the stranger the sights.
I was driving downtown
to buy gifts for the family
and enjoying bouquets
of beautiful people
bundled in big coats
and colorful scarves
clustered on corners,
shopping in good cheer
amid petals of snow
dancing in the sun.

One of them, however,
a beautiful young lady,
had stopped to take issue
with an old woman in a shawl
picketing Planned Parenthood.
The old woman was riding
on a motor scooter
designed for the elderly.
She held a sign bigger
than she was and kept
motoring back and forth
as resolute as my aunt
who had been renowned
for protesting any injustice.
Saving seals in the Antarctic
had been very important to her.

On this day, however,
the beautiful young lady
who had taken issue
with the old woman
was livid and screaming.
She marched behind
the motor scooter and
yelled at the old woman
who appeared oblivious
to all the commotion.
Maybe she was deaf,
I thought, like my aunt.
That can be an advantage
at a time like this.

The letters on the sign were huge
but I couldn't read them
so I drove around the block
and found a spot at the curb.

It turned out the sign said,
"What might have happened
if Mary of Nazareth
had been pro-choice?"
Now I understood
why the young lady
was ranting and raving
and why the old woman
kept motoring to and fro.
At Christmastime in America
people get excited,
more so than usual.

When I got home
I hid my packages
and told my wife at supper
what I had seen.
I also told her that if Mary
had chosen otherwise,
I wouldn't have had
to go shopping today.
That's obvious, she said. 

 Cookie Fixin's


This year Teddy phoned me
from who knows where
instead of one of our siblings.
This year I’m the honoree
but it’s only a matter of time
before he gets angry again.
He’s stifling his anger
because of the holidays.
He wants a place to eat
and a share in the family glee.

But Sissy is right about Teddy
being nice when he reaches out
after going away for months.
He likes to fly in for a holiday,
enjoy a bountiful repast,
fall back in his chair and
issue the old accusations
recited whenever he visits.

He’s the youngest of seven
and swears every time he comes
that Mom and Pop treated us better,
that he got the hand-me-downs.
I’m afraid if he’s not on his meds,
there’ll be an encore this year.

Right after coffee and dessert
and several snorts of brandy,
Teddy will become a blowtorch
and burn for at least an hour,
scorching us with memories.
The siblings will go up in flames
along with Mom and Pop
gasping in their graves.

If it happens again this year,
I’ll take the floor after him
and point out that Gertrude Stein
said a rose is a rose is a rose
but failed to point out that
a twit is a twit is a twit.
And if reincarnation awaits us,
as Teddy says it does,
he’ll return as salmonella.



My boss has a problem with God
or rather a problem with me
because I believe in God
and he doesn’t.
Or so we discover
while taking a break
at a big convention.
I hope I don’t lose my job.

We’re in a bar with Lady Gaga
pouring from the juke box.
My boss has a whiskey sour
and I’m nursing a Coke.
God help me.

He doesn’t believe
faith is a gift no one’s
guaranteed but knows
some folks have it
and others don’t.
Why is that, he asks,
finishing his sour,
signaling for another.

I tap into memories
from philosophy class
and recite the proofs
for the existence of God
some folks accept
and others deny.
My boss sees the logic
but still doesn’t believe.
So I sip my Coke and say
faith is a gift logic can't buy.

A few more drinks and he asks
what a man must do
if he wants to believe.
Ominous, I think, but here goes.
My wife, after all, has a job
with benefits.

I tell him to ask the God
he doesn’t believe in
to grant him faith.
Ask Him more than once
and if he receives it
he will be amazed
that someone
like me believes. 


Would the death in Ferguson
have been as black and white
as many seem to think it is

if the victim had been
white as anthrax,
and the shooter

black as tar?
Would the aftermath
have been the same?

Would Pastor Sharpton
have flown to Ferguson
to address the masses

while the President
spoke gravely from afar?
Would businesses

have burned as bright
long into the night while
frozen cops watched?

I watched it on TV
with a cup of hot cocoa.
I’m the one to ask.



Alice, a mother and housewife,
watches her husband, the doctor,

out in the garden on weekends
weeding with a speed and ferocity

she can't muster, her energy spent
taking care of the kids.

They never discuss his work
at the clinic where he digs

bulbs out of wombs, snuffing 
any chance for blooms.



They had to operate,
remove the one,
and from the other
take a nugget.
Later in the hall
they said they got it all.
They said how well
she’d be with rest.
Her first night home,
as we prepared for bed,
she turned to show me.
In my mind the cinema of fleet
but fecund years
ran through another time.

 Fixin' Cookies!


Granny wants to go to a movie
back in the old neighborhood
where she and Gramps used to
neck in high school but Gramps

doesn't want to drive that far 
and tells Granny he’ll go if she sits
in the balcony and wears a skirt
he can slide his hand under

during the Coming Attractions.
Granny asks Gramps if he isn’t
a little old for that kind of thing
and Gramps says he’d rather put

his head under there and let Granny
box his ears with her thighs
and listen to his sighs as he harvests
fruit still ripe in the orchard.



Pastor Homer is a jealous man
and Opal gives him fits
through 40 years of marriage
dancing, laughing
kissing other men
on New Year’s Eve 
when midnight strikes.

And every year when Opal
kisses other men
Pastor Homer in his party hat
toots his party horn
and hollers from his wheelchair,
“If Judas had a sister,
Opal, you'd be it.”


Today's LittleNip:


On the white lily,
wings of the Monarch
open and close.

Over coffee this morning
lips of Miranda
open and close.

Soon the Monarch
will take to the air.
Autumn is here.

As will Miranda
when Bill goes to work.
Nothing now to disclose.



Capitol Christmas Tree in Sacramento