Friday, April 29, 2016

Tulips and Cowlicks

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


It’s war
plain and simple
when I fill the feeder

out in the sycamore
with millet and niger
and sunflower seed.

Back in the house
I stare out the window
and watch juncos

and chickadees bicker
on the perch, spilling
more than they eat.

Cardinals and jays 
drive them away, argue
and spill even more.

Then starlings take over,
and like rice at a wedding,
seed fills the air

pleasing the doves below.
They walk like old nuns
and peck at the manna.



I turn the porch light on
because it’s dark when I go out
to find the morning paper.

It’s still dark when I start back
but when I’m on the porch I reach
inside a little bin for bird seed

and spread it along the bannister.
That’s when the choir starts to sing.
It’s too dark to see the birds in trees

watching me spread their seed
but they thank me with a lovely hymn
from the morning tabernacle choir. 


Miss Goody Two-Shoes'
sweaters aren’t too tight,
skirts aren’t too straight
and heels aren’t too high.

She’s a swan gliding
in this small town library
where old men sit at tables
reading newspapers
from all over the world until

Miss Goody Two-Shoes
has another cart full of books
she must wheel between them
so she can put them away.

And when she does, the men
stop reading and smile
as their adopted daughter,
another Audrey Hepburn,
gracefully glides by.



It’s a small backyard
I’ve watched for years
from an upstairs window
while chained to a computer.
Whatever the weather

the old widow was always
planting in spring
watering in summer
raking in fall
shoveling in winter

but the yard’s quiet now
the only traffic
a resident squirrel
heading for the oak
over the tall grass
the widow’s heir
has stopped mowing.

She told her son
you don’t have to garden
but please mow the grass
rake the leaves and
shovel the snow
or I’ll shake you
at midnight
the rest of your life. 


Every four years I vote
and every four years
for the last 40 years
the same lady
has signed me in

and every four years
she looks at my ID,
then up at me and says
“Don’t I know you?”
Meanwhile the people
lining up behind me
are getting impatient
so I tell her that

she knows me because
she signs me in to vote
every four years.
She nods and says,
“But didn’t you go
dancing back in the day
at the Aragon Ballroom?
You knew how to waltz
while the other guys
could only jitterbug.”

And so I confess that back
in the Sixties long before
arthritis and stenosis,
I used to dance a bit
and she looks away
and says, “You should have
called me like you promised.
I gave you my number.”

By now there are
eight people waiting
behind me so I tell her
I had planned to call her
but left her number
in my suit and they
lost it at the cleaners.

Otherwise, I tell her,
I would have called her
and swept her off her feet.
And after a big wedding
at the cathedral we'd
have honeymooned
for years and never
would she have ever
married my brother
who can’t dance a step.


We’re twins.
We’ve been together
from the start.
You’re the doctor.
You know that.

She didn’t sound happy
when you told her
there were two.
We’re worried
she doesn’t want us.

See you next week
when she comes back
with her decision.
We’ll float till then.
Nothing else to do.



White privilege it’s called and recently
I learned its name although I’ve been
white as a sheet for decades.
Like breathing and eating I take
white privilege for granted.

I push a cart through a megastore
in bib overalls and no one
follows me and when I hail a cab
in a snow storm, it picks me up.
My freckles may be a stop sign.

Not so my friend George,
black as tar in a suit and tie,
who finds someone behind him
in any store he enters.
And cabs are in no rush
to pick him up either
despite his fine attire.

I can't do anything about being white.
Nor can George about being black.
We get along despite the difference
because we know each other.
Salt and pepper, his wife says.

White privilege is nice to have.
To live without it must be a problem,
though George has never complained.
If other whites don’t get to know him,
he’ll be tailed for life in stores
and may go gray hailing cabs
as they fly by and he turns white
waving in the snow.


They were refugees, too,
back in the Forties,
settled in Chicago,
learned English,
some a lot, some a little,
found jobs of some kind,
made do like their neighbors
until things got better.

And by the Seventies,
on hot summer nights
they were loud and happy
gathering on Morse Avenue
around parking meters
in the dying sunlight
outside one of the delis
lining the street
to argue about the Cubs 
or politics or anything
they could disagree upon.
If someone made a point
someone else made
a counterpoint.

Arguments squared off
with cab driver against lawyer,
handyman against accountant,
all of them equal as a people.
They were survivors of the holocaust,
some with forearm tattoos
shouting under short sleeve shirts,
others with tattoos silent under
long sleeves worn to the office
that day with a tie.

Chicago had welcomed them
thirty years earlier and now
they were giving back, working
and sending their children
to college after making a life
and a neighborhood their own.


In a yard abandoned
this winter when
the owner moved

grass is growing
this spring
but not too well

tufts and cowlicks
sprouting up all over
a disaster in the eyes

of neighbors who spot
one thing however
they’d like to have

in their own yard.
Tulips tall and brilliant
among the cowlicks

tulips red and yellow
singing their hearts out
to blue sky and sun


Today’s LittleNip(s):


I never remember
year to year but then

some morning
in March

I'll walk out in the yard
and hear

the first trumpets
of Spring



After the Spring rain
two doves on a Dogwood branch
preening like starlets


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney for today’s fine poetry, and a note that submissions to Sac. Poetry Center’s
Tule Review have been extended to midnight on Sunday, May 1. See