Friday, September 11, 2015

Beyond the Milkweed

Monarch on Milkweed (Anonymous Photos)
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


It was her birthday.
She was only five
the dawn we went out
to look at roses
in Grandma's garden
while everyone else
was sleeping.
She loved them all
every color
but stooped the way
little girls do
and pointed to
wings of a Monarch
on the ground
splayed by death
fresh with dew
underneath milkweed
Grandma planted
just last Spring
for Monarchs
to lay their eggs.
She asked if
it would fly away
and I said no.  
Monarch mothers
I explained
lay their eggs
in milkweed
and then sleep.
That’s why
she and I
must be careful
not to make a sound
as we tip-toe
over there to the roses
Grandma planted
beyond the milkweed
just last Spring
just for her.



She’s forgotten how great I am,
although I do my best to remind her
after all these years of marriage.

She knew how great I was on
our wedding day and honeymoon
and for some months thereafter.

But just the other day we were
stationed in our recliners
and I was trying to help her see

life as it is and not as she
has always wished it to be.
And the woman yawned.

She’s different now but it’s better
than being married to a groupie.
Tomorrow I’ll try reason again.


We took a feral cat
we'd been feeding to the vet
when it stopped eating.

It was lying on the deck
too weak to object.
The vet said tests

would cost $400
to figure out the problem.
Or we could euthanize the cat.

That would cost less.
It was up to us, he said.
I asked him if old and sick

cats and dogs were still
euthanized with gas
and he said no.

It’s by injection now.
They don’t feel a thing.
Perhaps that will help

if the Court decides
some day to cull
the herd of old folks.



When you get old
it’s nice to have all your marbles
even if you can’t count them

even if they look the same color
even if you can no longer hear them
bounce off each other when your son

brings your grandson over
and he shoots marbles all over
the house and they careen

like your thoughts this morning
as you try to recall where you put
the marbles after the boy went home

and you get down on your hands
and knees and feel around and find them
so when the boy comes over again

you can hand him the marble bag
because your son just called
and the boy will be here in an hour

laughing and shouting and wanting
to shoot marbles all over the house
like heads rolling in Syria and Iraq.


Under his pillow he keeps
a pistol not to shoot the man
coming through the window
with a bazooka at midnight
and waking the wife who later 
asks him why he shot the burglar
instead of asking him what he wanted.
It might have been something she
planned to give to Goodwill anyway.
He keeps the pistol under his pillow

to take into dreams that wake him
every night in Cinemascope
where he again is the lead actor
in films 50 years ago surrounded by
lesser men in supporting roles
who drove him nuts when he was
young and handsome and now
they’re back again because they heard
he has Old-Timer’s Disease
and they want to badger him

about their wives who chased him
all over Hollywood on Oscar Night.
They’re mopes, he tells his wife,
who never had a lead role, mopes
who would have been shot on set
if he hadn’t feared execution
but now in his dreams every night
these mopes had better duck.
The worst sentence he can get is
dreams for life without parole.



No more emails with a smiley face,
no more emails, period, or you
and the others are out of my will.

I live in Papua now, came here
decades ago after your mother died.
She never came back to haunt me
until you started sending emails
with a smiley face

and there she was behind each one,
a banshee bellowing for the neighbors
and the cops pounding on the door again.
You and the quads always slept through it.

Give my best to everyone but no need to tell me
who gets married, has triplets, gets divorced,
wins the lottery or at some point dies.
But the most important thing is

no more emails with a smiley face,
no more emails, period, or you
and the others are out of my will.


Sarah works lunch in a Subway shop
building sandwiches for construction men

putting up a skyscraper down the street.
The men pick their own bread and meat and let

Sarah pick their cheese because instead of a cookie
with their lunch they’d prefer Sarah after work.

Every month or so the crew changes and Sarah picks
the man who looks the best, says the nicest things

and agrees to meet him for coffee later at Starbucks.
If he passes muster over lattes, Sarah takes him home

and finds herself an hour later staring at the ceiling while
he pulls on his boots, says he’ll call and goes home.

None of the men has ever called or is seen again
except at Subway where he now picks his own cheese.



A poor man comes to the door
after the storm last winter and

asks if he can have something
to eat if he shovels the walk.

You say forget about the snow.
How about ham sandwiches

on rye bread and he says fine.
You ask if he wants mustard.

He says yes if it’s Grey Poupon,
the only mustard he eats.


We send diplomats
to talk with diplomats
of other nations
and hope a deal
is struck to bring
peace and justice
to all involved and

we’re stymied when
diplomats come back
and bury us beneath
balderdash and buncombe.
It’s time we face the facts.
It’s time to send
the exorcists instead.



It’s pretty simple, really.
The world will end
whether we believe
the Bible is a myth or truth.

If the Bible is the truth, 
the world will end,
a monk told me,
when the angels come
to sort the good folk
from the bad and

toss the bad folk into
fire that never ends
with weeping and
gnashing of teeth.

But if the Bible is a myth,
an atheist told me,
the world will end
with a final aria
atop Mt. Everest
when the fat lady sings.


Today’s LittleNip:

that’s life

some of us have
seconds, minutes
hours, days
weeks, months

others years
to figure out
what the hell
life's about

but so few do
for heaven’s sake
consider me
how about you


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney for today's fine poetry!