Lying in bed
on a Monday morning
I watch my wife towel off
after showering and think
why can’t I be that towel
rolling over her knolls
basking in her garden
rather than rising
and going to work.
WIVES AND GIRLFRIENDS
A good reason to get married,
Tim told me before he died,
is you need a driver to take you
home from a colonoscopy.
When cancer runs in the family
and three relatives have had it
colonoscopies become frequent.
You get used to drinking the potion
the day before the exam but
depending on the test results
you may get the same day,
driving yourself home isn't
the wisest thing to do
no matter how long you may live.
A wife will take you home, Tim said.
A girlfriend might do it once
but then she will find someone else.
Tim had reasons to know.
These are old people
retired and driving slowly
from small apartments
in economy cars
getting out on canes
and walkers with
hearing aids you can see
attired in the best
Goodwill has to offer
arriving between 1 and 3
at Mid-America Buffet
eating their fill for $5.00 off
piling their plates with
chicken, meat loaf
salads galore, veggies
green beans, carrots
eaten in a rush as kids
listening to Fibber McGee
and Molly on the radio
eaten slowly now
by folks who make it
on crackers and snacks
and one meal a day
this one for $5.00 off
at Mid-America Buffet.
A doctor for decades,
he provides services
not available nearby.
Clients drive miles
from farms and towns
seeking his care.
He is always busy,
assisted by two nurses
six days a week.
He loves animals
and feeds tramp dogs
and feral cats daily
in the open field
behind his office.
If he sees a bug
in his office
while he carries it outside.
Only then does he return
and relieve another client
of her fetus.
IN CERTAIN MATTERS OF THE HEART
It's a matter of the heart,
the doctor says,
and he can fix it
with catheter ablation.
"It works miracles," he says,
"in certain matters of the heart."
He's been a cardiologist for years.
"Take my word for it," he says.
"You'll be sedated. Won't feel a thing."
No excavation in my chest, either.
Instead, he'll make little holes
in my groin and snake tiny wires
to the surface of my heart
and kill the current that makes
my heart race like a hare
at times and mope
like a turtle other times.
He's never lost a patient.
"You'll be fine," he says.
Nine out of 10 ablations work.
I'll save hundreds a month, he says,
on medications. No more Multaq.
No more Cardizem. And I'll never
have to wear a heart monitor again.
"Shall we give it a try?" he asks.
"I've got an opening
two weeks from Monday.
It's an outpatient procedure.
You'll go home the same day,
rest for a week and then resume
your usual activities, even bowling.
Do you like bowling? My nurses do.
I prefer woodcarving."
"Okay, Doc," I tell him.
"I'll give it a try, but tell me,
where were you 40 years ago
when the kids were small
and I was young, like a bull,
and a different matter of the heart
dropped me like a bullet.
Are you sure my heart's still ticking?
Where's your stethoscope?
I haven't felt a thing in years."
IT'S NOT FOR THE USHER TO ASK
Many churches today
have a food pantry that never
had a pantry before.
I attend a church like that.
Some folks are well-fixed,
others poor, most betwixt.
Some had money before
but not enough now to pay
the mortgage and then buy food
so the pantry helps them
the same way it helps clients
it has helped for years.
Some folks in the pews quietly
support the pantry with
checks and canned goods
enabling the nouveau poor
to stand in line with the
forever poor on Mondays.
A neighborhood baker slips
into the church Sunday mornings
just prior to the end of service
and quietly stacks his trays
of unsold bread in the dark foyer.
He says nothing and disappears.
No one seems to know
who he is but the hungry
love his bread and word
of its excellence has reached
the woman who leaves church early
and always grabs two loaves
of French baguettes and is
out in the parking lot long
before anyone else and
drives off in a red Mercedes.
Perhaps she’s on unemployment,
low on food stamps or is still
making payments on the car.
It’s not for the usher to ask.
I simply hold the door.
ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING
Another mass shooting.
This time a young white man
shoots nine black people
in a South Carolina church
during a Bible study.
At trial, defense attorneys
will try to prove
the shooter was insane
as the defense in Denver
tried to prove after
the shootings in
the movie theater;
as the defense
at Sandy Hook
would have tried had
the shooter survived.
Don’t execute the shooters.
That would be inhumane.
They had to be insane.
Instead, let them roam
in the penitentiary.
Peers will decide what
punishment fits the crime.
THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER
Back in 1957, kissing Carol Ann behind the barn
in the middle of a windswept field of Goldenrod
with a sudden deer watching was very special,
let me tell you. Back then, bobby sox, poodle skirts
big barrettes and ponytails were everywhere.
Like many farmers, Carol Ann's father had a giant radio,
a console occupying the living room, and every
Saturday night the family would gather 'round
with great big bowls of ice cream and listen
to the Grand Ole Opry. It was beamed
“all the way from Nashville," I was often told
since I was from Chicago and I sometimes wore
a suit and tie so how would I know.
One time I asked Carol Ann if the Grand Ole Opry
was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of country music
and she said not to say that to her father. Instead
I should tap my foot to the music and let him watch me.
Otherwise, I’d best be quiet and say “yup,” “nope” or
“maybe” if he asked me any questions which she didn’t
think would happen. "No need to say much more,"
she said, and after a few visits I understood why.
Over time, I learned to tap my foot pretty good because
when I’d come to visit, her father would insist I have
my own big bowl of ice cream. I liked the ice cream but
not so much the Grand Ole Opry. After all, I’d been weaned
on Sinatra in the city. Big difference, let me tell you.
But in 1957 kissing Carol Ann behind the barn
was all that we could do until I found employment.
Only then, her father said, could we get married.
There were no jobs in town, however, for a man
with horn-rimmed glasses and degrees in English.
Yet the weekend drives from Chicago were worth the gas
my Rambler guzzled because kissing Carol Ann brought
a bit of heaven down behind that barn, especially on
summer nights when darting fireflies were the only
stars we saw when our eyes finally popped open. It was
the Fourth of July every time with sparklers twinkling.
Now, 55 years later, Carol Ann sometimes mentions fireflies
when the two of us are dancing behind the cows at dusk
and coaxing them into the barn for the night. I’m still not
good with cows despite my John Deere cap, plaid shirt
and overalls which proves, she says, that all that kissing
behind the barn in 1957 took the boy out of the city
but not the city out of the boy.
“Hee Haw” is all I ever say because I know why I’m there.
I'm there to tap the cows on the rump until we get them
back in the barn so we can go back in the house and start
with a kiss and later on come back downstairs
for two big bowls of ice cream.
LOVE AND SLAUGHTER
Sheep are by a goat while
cattle are like swine, prodded, yet
cattle go by hammer while
swine are by the hind leg hung
then swung about to spigot.
Quicker, infinitely cleaner, is
the hacksaw of sweet Susan's laughter.
MAYBE THEY'LL TAKE A LUNCH
Jack says God doesn’t exist.
No one has ever seen him.
God says Jack exists and
He can’t wait to meet him.
—Medusa, thanking Donal Mahoney for his fine poetry today, as well as those anonymous photographers whose work appears on the Internet, reminding us of the true Art of Swimming!