Friday, October 02, 2015

Not At All Like Life

—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


Bathroom faucet
has a slow drip.
I can barely see it.

Shorter wife sees it,
wants it fixed now.
I try hard but can’t do it.

Plumber comes,
says it can’t be fixed.
He has a new faucet

and it costs a lot.
Wife wants new faucet.
I say just a minute.

Isn’t old faucet
just like life?
Why not let it drip.

An hour later
we have a new faucet.
Not at all like life.



Aunt Bea is 102 so who am I
to contradict her when she
calls Shady Acres
the Old Folks’ Home
when I visit her once a week
and bring a hot fudge sundae
which she has trouble eating now.
It used to disappear in minutes
with her licking the plastic spoon.

She says they moved her to
this other floor and won’t let her
get out of bed, and although
the nurse told me what
prompted the move, I ask
Aunt Bea why they did it
and she says it’s because
she told Doctor Kuffman
about the bad nurses
and the water problem.

Whenever she asks for
a glass of water, she says,
the nurses take her out back
and put her in the bucket
back on her father’s farm
and lower her into the well
and tell her to get her own
water and to holler when she’s
had enough and they’ll
pull her back up.

But they never do it right
and she’s always thirsty,
Aunt Bea says, and she’s
damn tired of the nurse
who hollers down "how we
doin' down there, Sweetie"
and then taking an hour
to pull her back up and
she still has no water
because the three of them
in their fancy uniforms
never give her a glass.


They’re in the kitchen,
drinking coffee, the kids,
in their fifties now,
figuring out what to do
about Dad who’s
in the parlor listening,
counting all the marbles
they think he’s lost.
The six of them flew in
to bury mother.
They won’t go back
until they figure out
what to do about Dad.
At the funeral they saw
Father Kelly kiss Dad’s
wedding ring, the one
he’s worn for 60 years.
Father Kelly bowed
over the wheelchair
as if Dad were pope
and told him he’d be over
Tuesday night as usual
for checkers and a beer.
Best two out of three
goes to heaven first.



This black moth
flew in the front door
of the living room 
the other night
and has been up
on the ceiling
ever since.
It's hanging
upside down
in the same spot
not moving

like a drone waiting
for instructions.
I'm in my recliner
this morning
drinking coffee
and watching him.
He's an immigrant
from the light
that shines all night
on the front porch
letting burglars know

I have an AK-47 
should they decide
to drop in.
The last few nights
I've noticed other moths
fluttering around the light
perhaps wondering where
this moth is.
In his current fix,
he too may be wondering
how they're doing.

When I was a boy,
there was a protocol
in my family when
a moth commandeered 
the parlor ceiling.
My father would swing
the fly swatter
and flatten the intruder
with one splat.

The last three mornings
I haven't seen this moth move.
I wouldn't kill him
even if I had a swatter.
But if he were
an inconvenience, 
like an unintended fetus
found in a womb,
I still wouldn't do anything.
We have people trained
to take care of that
and like my father
they know what
they're doing.


Books covered in dust
are stacked from floor to ceiling.
Screens light up the house.



Retired now, he’s half St. Francis
every season of the year, putting out

sunflower seed and safflower seed
for bickering cardinals and jays,

niger seed for the goldfinch mob,
millet for the different sparrows,

feeds feral cats at an early hour
that eat and leave before

the birds drop down.
He and his wife go downtown

and step around old men drifting
like pigeons, begging for change.


It’s not the same as seeing the poor
in Bangladesh on PBS and hearing
Gwen or Judy tell us about them because
the poor in Bangladesh scream in silence,
brown and gaunt and hollow-eyed.
Many of them have jobs that feed few
even when the factory isn’t burning.

But in time you begin to think that’s what poor is,
living in Bangladesh, until you find out someone
you’ve known for years and thought still lived down
the street and was worried about his crabgrass
but had enough to eat and pay his mortgage
only to find out that’s no longer the case

and hasn’t been since he lost his job and wife
and kids and sleeps where they take him in when
the weather’s bad, and has to thumb a ride
to a part-time job at the midnight shift at QuikTrip
because he hasn’t got the bus fare.

Then you see the guy early Saturday morning
on your way to the Farmer’s Market and he waves
from across the street and looks the same and you
realize you don’t have to be brown and gaunt and
hollow-eyed in Bangladesh to need help in America,

home of the hidden poor who look as though
they’re doing as well as you think you are and you
wonder if maybe you should at least listen to the
gray-haired man who needs a comb and yells like
he’s hawking a Rolex in the Bronx and doesn’t live
in Vermont but wants to change everything because
if the man is right, the guillotine may fall on you.



A boy, maybe 5, dancing
in the candy aisle of a megastore
at 6 a.m., a month before Halloween,

is overjoyed by the harvest
on every shelf, his caramel skin
aglow, his hair a perfect 'fro,

his black t-shirt and black jeans
the right outfit for his performance.
And although he has the moves

he’s more a cub scout than
another Michael Jackson.
He has the aisle to himself

except for me and my cart
at one end and a clerk
with a box at the other

both of us stunned to see
a boy with no arms dancing
in the candy aisle till mother

comes and scoops him up,
plops him in her empty cart.
Both laugh and disappear.


Niagara Falls
her silver hair

so long it
bounces off

the swan
of her back

and off
her buttocks

as she laughs
and waves

a towel too long
saluting the sun

and us
who share

golden morning



It should be of marble
three feet tall, a foot thick,
name and dates an inch deep.

A century from now it must say
this woman was the sun
in this man’s day.


Today’s LittleNip:


Evil without
we worry about but not
so much evil within,

parent to evil without.
Evil within, once called sin,
slithers about

in beautiful costumes.
Halloween is here
every day of the year.


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney today for his fine poems!