—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
You meet all kinds of women in pubs,
women far different than women
you meet in church on Sunday
when you're in a pew with your wife
which is why I was surprised to hear
this beautiful woman two stools over
ask me if I believed in angels
before I had ordered a drink.
Well, as a matter of fact, I do,
I said, happy to get the small stuff
out of the way before we got down
to business, whatever that might be.
What kind of angels do you believe in,
she smiled and asked, sipping a Guinness.
Well, I believe in seraphim, cherubim,
principals, thrones, dominations, all
the different choirs of angels
listed in the Bible I studied in school.
What about guardian angels, she asked.
Do you believe you have one?
Indeed I do believe I have one, I said,
although I saw no reason why guardian angels
couldn't be women if angels had genders
which as pure spirits they don't have.
And what does your guardian angel do,
she inquired, getting rather personal.
Well, I said, my guardian angel is busy
from the moment I get up at dawn
till I fall back in the sack at night
because Satan or one of his minions
is always trying to worm his way
into my mind, memory or imagination
trying to get me to do things
forbidden by the Ten Commandments.
For example, whenever I see a beautiful woman,
Satan always says I should introduce myself
and I always ask my guardian angel if I should
and he always asks what my wife would say
and I always ask if I have to tell her
and he always says I should keep walking
while he does what guardian angels do
and knocks Satan horns over hooves
back into Hades, something he does for me
several times a day, especially when
I stop at this train station pub for
root beer on ice when my train is late
and a beautiful woman two stools over
smiles and asks if I believe in angels.
CAROUSEL OF MARRIAGE
Harry and Grace had a carousel
of marriage while it lasted.
There were arguments galore
and children by the score
or so the neighbors thought
as they counted kids
running across their lawns
causing divots to fly and
dogs to bark, a canine
Fireworks on the Fourth
were peaceful in comparison.
The kids would light their
crackers in the yard while
Harry and Grace sat
and swirled vodka on ice
in plastic tumblers.
Harry and Grace had arguments
so loud the cops would come
but no one was ever arrested.
Grace would say Harry was wonderful
and Harry would say Grace was too.
But eventually Harry moved out
and Grace got a job doing hair.
Harry sent money for years
and the kids went to college.
Decades later a neighbor saw Harry
at the Mall and they had a nice chat.
Harry said he was happy his kids
got degrees and it was good Grace
had married the farrier and moved
to Wyoming where there were horses.
Not much work for a farrier in Brooklyn.
He had time to break up a marriage.
Millie on crutches
in the day room
tells Fred on
to find him.
even if you're old
and can't walk.
to push your
If you can't
get out of bed,
hire two people
It's too late
if you hire
ten men to
carry your coffin
Now is the time,
and for many
that's a problem.
too little time
to find him.
REMEMBERING HIS THIRD WIFE
Never speak ill of the dead,
his father always said,
and his father was a pastor
who preached from the pulpit.
That's why whenever
he thinks of his third wife,
and he does almost daily,
he never says anything bad.
Instead, he sends himself an email
and records for history yet another
evil deed she managed to execute
during the years they had six kids.
Between kids she drove him nuts.
He never thought she'd die
and never hoped she would
because as he said in an email,
the Devil has his hands full.
Then he saw her death certificate
and, by golly, it was embossed
so it had to be good as gold.
Since he couldn't keep the original
he took it to the office
and made a giant photocopy.
Now he wants the right frame,
black as he claims her heart was.
So far he has sent himself 400 emails
about his bonfire life with her, a brief
prologue to the Hall of Fame injustices
he maintains he suffered simply
because so long ago he said "I do."
He isn't certain what she said.
Perhaps it was "You're through!"
MADMAN IN REMISSION
Does he remember?
Jenny, how could he forget?
Thirty years ago you roared
into his office and raged
about your cousin's
decision to marry him.
He had never met you.
Your cousin had told him
you were in town
and suggested he
take you to lunch,
show you Chicago.
She didn't know
you were angry.
You were just Jenny,
her cousin, her playmate
down on the farm.
You didn't want her
to marry anyone
and leave you the last
cousin still single,
in those days
when nobody knew.
You mocked him
and he couldn't respond
with people around.
you could have died
that day in his office.
Thirty years later,
he's still a madman
No apology will do.
THE LADLING OF AGENT ORANGE
Anything can set him off.
Been that way for 40 years
since he came back from Nam.
He got spooked at dawn today
by a spider web dripping from a tree
he walked into when his dog
took him for his morning walk.
After lunch he brushed his teeth
and cried about a doctor
who died the other day.
He reads the obits every day
for names of men he served with.
His therapist believes his stress
may be magnified by contact
with Monsanto's Agent Orange.
To win the war, America ladled it
in layers thick all over Vietnam.
He managed to avoid the Cong
but never knew about Monsanto
and the ladling of Agent Orange.
He may have stepped in it at times.
Back home, he's shaky and unsure
but determined now to find the gook
who dropped that spider web.
He'll take his pistol tomorrow morning.
He and the dog will watch the trees.
There's always more than one.
ROTARY DIALERS IN A CELL PHONE WORLD
When rabbis dance an Irish jig
and Trappist monks eat matzoh balls,
cell phone people will realize
rotary dialers aren't always
"on the wrong side of history"
even if this ancient tribe
balks at any kind of change
and grumbles when they spot
men with earrings or
women with tattoos.
"Not that there's anything wrong
with that," Jerry Seinfeld might
have said but rotary dialers have
never been Seinfeld's biggest fans.
Lawrence Welk is still their man.
But rotary dialers do their best
to stay abreast of fashion
if they can't avoid it.
They want to prove they're not
"on the wrong side of history."
OLD STAG GIDDY
Elmer's an old stag now
snorting among the trees
but sometimes Martha
after her shower
is a doe beckoning
and he becomes giddy
and heads for the salt lick
happy in the breeze