Friday, February 26, 2016

Trash Cans and the Big 62

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


Far from the city
way out in the country
a hot afternoon in high summer

as we drive down a bumpy road
bouncing one mail box past
another saluting

each farmer by name.
We marvel at the giant corn
until we come to a mail box

bent over an old table
piled high with tomatoes,
green beans and melons.

A tin can slumps in front
of this harvest with a note 
gripped by a clothes pin

saying, “Take what you will
and leave what you will.
God blessed us this year.”



Millicent was the daughter
who danced ballet and sang until
she met Butchie on a rainy day.

He was in coveralls
and cowboy hat and fixed
two flats on her Infiniti.

He asked her for a date
and she sighed yes and so
despite her family's laments

he picked her up in his truck
and they sang and bounced along
bumpy roads to the county fair.

Months later they eloped
and Millicent helped Butchie
run his car wash in Kentucky.

It's 50 years now since they wed
and Millicent has seven children,
twice as many grandkids.

No longer a slip of a thing,
she’s gray and plump but still
loves to let Butchie have his way

at least once a week.
Makes her feel like a bride again
to hear him yodel at the end.


The day Paul got married,
his old girlfriend called his house
just before he and his bride Anne

caught the plane for their honeymoon.
Paul was outside packing the car
and Anne answered the phone.

His old girlfriend was angry because
Paul had married somebody else so she 
told Anne strange things Paul liked to do,

strange things Anne had never heard of,
stuff that didn’t sound like Paul at all,
but Anne said nothing about the call

and they flew off to a nice honeymoon,
diving off cliffs and swimming in the sea,
seeing rare birds and tropical flowers,

eating native foods Anne hadn't heard of.
Years later, they went back to Oahu
for their 40th anniversary, and Anne

told Paul about the call but didn’t say
anything about what the girl had said
although she remembered every word.

They were sipping drinks at a café
when Paul admitted he remembered
the girl because she would ask him to do

things he thought odd and strange.
He was open-minded but there’s a limit.
Anne said she understood because after

40 years with Paul, she now liked to do
things she thought odd and strange when
she left the Amish for something new.



When I was in grammar school
I knew it was Wednesday
when I looked out the window
and saw across the street
three trash cans at the curb
in front of the Manion house.

No matter how early I got up
the three cans would be there
looking like a trio waiting
to break into song.

When I’d get home from school,
the cans would be gone.
They had been put away,
I figured, until their next gig
the following Wednesday.

When I was in high school,
I noticed one day only two
cans standing at the curb.
I was told the son had married
and moved to another city
and his parents missed him.
But two cans were enough
to tell me it was Wednesday.

When I came home from college,
I noticed my first week back only
one can was stationed at the curb.
My mother told me at breakfast
Mr. Manion had died and
Mrs. Manion wasn’t doing well.

For the years I was in college
that solitary can was always
in front of the house.
It was still there when I
graduated, found a job,
married and moved away.

My wife and I would visit my folks,
and one Sunday after dinner
my father asked me to give him
a lift to the doctor on Wednesday.
When I pulled up in the car
I noticed no can was waiting
in front of the house.

My mother told me Mrs. Manion
had died and the house was for sale
at a good price in case my wife
and I might be interested.
She said it would be a good place
to raise kids if we ever had any.
My father usually said little
but coughed and agreed.

They seemed happy because
I hadn’t said no to the idea.
I knew they would like us
to live across the street but
I wanted to talk with my wife.
But my parents stared at me
when I asked if they could find out 
if the trash cans were included
in the price of the house.
I’d need them on Wednesdays.


They have a few bucks,
the 62 richest billionaires in the world.
The Big 62 have half as much wealth

as the bottom half of the world’s population,
according to Oxfam International.
(Oxfam tracks the rich and the poor.)

Oxfam also points out that the top 1%
of the Big 62 have more wealth than
Everyone Else In The World Combined.

Oxfam released this information
ahead of the 2016 World Economic Forum
held in Davos, Switzerland, where the rich

from all over the world gather every year.
Capitalists at the Forum who read the report
had to be embarrassed, if that's possible.

Perhaps they told workers back at the office
about the need to find more tax breaks next year.
Or face unemployment. But if layoffs occur

unemployment comp and food stamps might help.
In some states Medicaid remains available, too.
Just don’t let your boss drop out of the Big 62.



The problem with Chloe is
she moved to San Diego
where the weather’s fair
but hasn't found anyone
who’ll listen to her so she
calls you or me at midnight.

Back here she had folks
who liked to listen to her
and if someone got fed up
someone else stepped up
with a problem to discuss.
Some folks liked Chloe
taking an interest in them.

Remember old Homer 
in the nursing home?
Twice a week she took him
a mocha latte and a cookie.
He’d sit up in bed and listen
as long as the coffee lasted.
Once she forgot his coffee
and Homer grumbled a bit
and fell asleep.

When her sister Daisy
got sick they reconciled
after years of arguments
and Chloe was delighted she
had someone new to counsel
but when she told Daisy she
had better go to church
the truce ended there.

Chloe needs more time to meet
someone new in San Diego.
Dudley left her, I understand,
to marry Alice who understood
Dudley didn’t like fancy chat.
In the meantime, you can try
what works for me with Chloe.
I unplug the phone before
I go to bed because she will
dial until someone answers.
Then she won’t hang up.


On Saturday mornings
several bowed citizens
gather on the sidewalk

outside the clinic
to read the Bible and pray.
Staff peer through curtains

afraid one of them might
stop a client coming in
for her procedure

despite two policemen
guns in their holsters
stationed outside.



It’s Rocky’s Diner
but it’s Brenda’s counter,
been that way for 10 years.
Brenda has her regulars
who want the Special of the Day.
They know the week is over

when it’s perch on Friday.
Her drifters don’t care about
the Special of the Day.
They want Brenda instead
but she’s made it clear
she’s not available.

Her regular customers tip well.
Long ago, they gave up
trying to see her after work.
After awhile her drifters go
to the diner down the street
to see if the waitress there

is any more hospitable.
Brenda’s regulars don’t know
she has three kids her mother
watched every day until Brenda
took a vacation out of town,
then came back and helped her

mother find a place of her own.
Now Brenda’s back at the diner,
serving her regulars and
discouraging her drifters,
while Marsha, her bride,
watches the kids.


Old Sam in Room 322
at the nursing home asked
the nurse to push his bed

near the window because
in October he likes to watch the leaves
on the Japanese Maple change color

from their summer green
to the red, yellow and maroon of fall
before the branches go nude for the winter.

The nurse chuckled and said
she hadn’t heard of his interest
in trees and nature and Sam said 

watching the leaves change color
and fall off slowly reminds him of
his wife getting home from work

and taking her time to change clothes,
comb her hair and primp a little before
smiling and coming to bed.


Today’s LittleNip:


First leaves of autumn.
Slow parachutes this morning
almost at the curb.


Many thanks to Donal Mahoney from St. Louis for this fine collection of poems, and a note that authors are invited to submit an application to present at the 2016 Great Valley Bookfest which will take place Oct. 8 in Manteca (see If selected, you could present individually, be paired with other featured authors, or be featured in a panel discussion. Spots are limited. Completed applications must be submitted by March 1; download applications at