Friday, December 16, 2016

From Across the Street

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


Farmer John knows he's old
but didn’t think he was that old
until he went to town one day
and met a young lady he liked
as much as he likes the corn
he plants and pigs he feeds.

He talked to Irma as best he could
but talking isn’t his forte so he
went home and sent her roses.
When he came back to town
two weeks later for more supplies
Irma said they could be friends.

Farmer John tucked his thumbs
under his suspenders and said
she would be the first woman
he had ever had as a friend.
Over the years other women
had just plain ignored him.

He told Irma too that
any farmer would agree
it’s a shame to allow a field
so fertile lie so fallow when
an old mule has its ears up
and wants to pull the plow.



You were gone
when I got home
at midnight
from a double shift.
Now you’re back,
two years later.
I had no idea
where you went
so I packed up
and got a room.
Long ago,
I begged you
not to leave
but that was then.
You can keep
the house, the car.
I'll come by
some starry night
when the moon is bright
and you're asleep.
I promise not to
wake the dogs.
When you get up
you'll find
I used my key
to take the kids. 


It started with a smirk
she managed to arrest.
It returned seconds later

in a sneer she pulled back
but then it appeared again
in the adder of a half smile

wives reserve for husbands
who sometimes say things that
don’t come out quite right.

Things happen in a marriage
between the best of couples
but never till that moment

in a long marriage had he seen
three faces flash by and
disappear so fast.

He would have said nothing
had he seen those faces
when he proposed.

But the lovely lady would be
sitting in that same restaurant
waiting for a different mate.



After all the tests
and the doctor’s explanation
she thinks of them not

as 20 points of cancer
but as 20 rusty nails
hiding here and there

at awkward angles
somewhere in her abdomen.
According to the doc,

the nails could fail
at any time one by one
or else collapse en masse.

More chemo is an option.
With three kids, it might
be worth another try. 


It’s not good when two disturbed people
with little in common disagree by email
on something important.

Tone and content can get raucous
and make matters worse because each is  
used to getting the last word.

Normal people give up arguing with them
but they can exchange emails for days
and never come close to a resolution.

Their bellowing would wake a bear in winter.
I tell you this from personal experience.
I just answered that lunatic again.



He doesn’t understand distressed jeans.
Designer jeans with rents and tears
look like the rags he grew up in

wearing other people’s discards.
His mother got his jeans from a charity
and they tore easily when he wore them.

He had to wear those jeans to school
and other kids made fun of him.
Decades later now he remembers

school days and can’t forget them.
Today he helps the poor with the
remnant from his small pension.

Yet he finds it strange the rich
pay to look poor and the poor
look that way for free. 


Only the blind man
with his leader dog
and tapping cane stops

when the homeless man
standing near the curb
asks commuters if

they have spare change.
The blind man lives downtown.
He has time to check.

The rest of us catch trains
and they won’t wait.
We march right by.



I take my wife to dinner
at a fancy place for us
to talk about money
because stocks have a virus
and we should move
money into silver and gold
in case we don’t die before
that rainy day comes

but first she asks
did I hear about Jimmy
from across the street
and I say he’s out of work
two months or more
and she says his wife’s
lost her job too and they
have kids in private school
shouldn’t we do something

and I ask what can we do
because Jimmy would never
take any help and she says
we could put cash in an 
envelope in his mailbox
at night and he wouldn’t
know who to blame 

just as something gross
on the half shell arrives
at our table with sauces
and I drop the whole idea
of talking about money
we’re lucky enough to have.
Stocks go up and go down
and jobs are lost and found.
We talk about Jimmy
from across the street
the rest of the night.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Donal Mahoney

You think he’d be more grateful.
Neither rich nor poor he’s
never wanted for anything.

He's always had what he needs
but never had any gratitude
until the day his car broke down

in a poor neighborhood and he
got out of his car to wave the
tow truck down and gasped 

at the poverty around him.
He’ll catch hell about this
the next time I shave.


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

 —Celebrate what you do know—and what you don’t!—
and the poetry that comes from both. And check out the new 
reading series, The Confluence, which is now meeting in
Sacramento every 1st and 3rd Fridays at Stellar Studios, 
202 23rd St., hosted by Sage Robbins. 
Tonight features Zealous, plus open mic, 7-9pm. Free! 
See “The Confluence Friday Night Poetry” on Facebook 
for more info about this new series, and scroll down to the 
blue column (under the green column at the right) for info 
about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—
and note that more may be added at the last minute! 
In case you missed yesterday’s note, 
Sacramento Voices will present D.R. Wagner and 
Barbara West at the Sac. Poetry Center tomorrow
(Saturday), 4:30-6pm.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.