Friday, December 25, 2015

New Yo-Yos and Giant Sombreros

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


I took grandson Jack
for a walk in the park
high noon on Christmas Day.
He wanted to see
his yo-yo dance
but his parents said
no yo-yo tricks
in a crowded house
with a Christmas tree.

So after Mass
they wrapped Jack up
in a snowsuit worn
by the Michelin Man
when he was a child.
And Jack and I
strolled off, laughing
through the snow.

The park was empty
when I showed Jack
yo-yo tricks I’d learned
many decades ago.
I told him he would
soon be tall enough
to do these tricks
on his own.

Jack laughed and asked
if we could come back
to the park that night
and watch the comets.
I asked him why.
That’s when I learned
comets are yo-yos and
God swings their strings
on the other side
of the moon.



Not a leaf left on the crabapple tree,
instead little red apples hang
like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Little red apples that spend
most of the winter covered with snow
waiting for the robins of spring

to fly back for a feast
so little pink flowers can bloom
and become little red apples again.

 Lazy Dog Chocolateria, Grass Valley


The older he gets
the darker the bedroom
and the brighter the light
streaming under the door

when he wakes up again
in the middle of the night
with pain and thinks about
what's on the other side.

Far better than the gifts piled
under his parents' Christmas tree
when he was a boy laughing down
three flights of stairs to see.



The last hummingbird
arrives at the feeder

all aflutter
in late September,

a final sip before flying
home for the winter.

Carl watches the bird
as he has all summer

through the fog of age.
He now calls Cassandra

after all these years
and asks her to dinner.

Cassandra says yes
and wears the red dress

he gave her one Christmas
when they were together.

Gracious as ever
Cassandra understands.

She feeds hummingbirds too
and takes Carl home.

  Lazy Dog Chocolateria, Grass Valley


Pedro swings a mop all night
on the 30th floor of Castle Towers
just off Michigan Avenue
not far from the foaming Lake.
The floor is his, all his,
to swab and wax till dawn.

The sun comes up and Pedro's
on the subway snoring,
roaring home to a plate
of huevos rancheros,
six eggs swimming
in a lake of salsa verde,
hot tortillas stacked
beside them.

After breakfast,
Pedro writes a poem
for Esperanza,
the wife who waits
in Nuevo Leon.
He mails the poem
that night, going back
to his bucket and mop.

Pedro's proud
of three small sons,
soccer stars
in the making.
On Christmas Eve
the boys wait up
in Nuevo Leon
and peek out the window.
Papa's coming home
for Christmas!

Pedro arrives at midnight
on a neighbor's donkey,
laughing beneath
a giant sombrero.
He has a red serape
over his shoulder,
and he's juggling
sacks of gifts.

When the donkey stops,
the boys dash out and clap
and dance in circles.
Esperanza stands
in the doorway
and sings
Feliz Navidad.


Father spoke in code
Mother understood.
She would cry
once he went to bed.
I never understood the code.
My sister didn't either.
As we got older, we quit
asking Mother what he said.

A feral cat claimed our yard.
It would leap the fence
when anyone appeared.
Except, of course, Father.
When he came out to walk
around the garden after supper,
the cat would sit straight up,
then rub against his leg
and look at him as if it understood
what others never could.

My sister used to say
the two of us were proof
Father and Mother
got together twice.
I told her I wasn't so certain.
I looked a lot like Mr. Brompton,
the next-door neighbor.
He used to buy us sugar cones
from the ice cream truck.

My sister, by the way, didn't look
like anyone in the family either,
but that was 40 years ago
when I last saw her.
I went away to college
and she got married.
We were never close after that.
Not even Christmas cards.

Forty years is a long time.
Now, we plan to get together
for a weekend this summer
before one of us dies.
I suggested we wait
till one of us is terminal.
What's the rush, I said.
But my wife told her
I was only kidding,
that we'll be coming
and not to make a fuss.
Burgers and hot dogs
will do just fine.

I know what Sis and I
will talk about that weekend,
the two people we'll always
have in common, no matter
how many years and miles
may lie between us.
Father and Mother have been
dead for decades now
but they're still alive in us.
I talk in code, my wife says,
and my sister cries a lot,
now that her husband's dead.
The one thing I want to know
is if my sister knows
what happened to the cat.
It knew the code,
may have had some answers.

  Lazy Dog Chocolateria, Grass Valley


Willie has mixed emotions
about homeless Syrians
coming to America but
his wife Millie says we
should take them in.

Willie says his wife is right
but says America has its problems.
It’s not able to house its own,
some of whom sleep in parks,
against buildings and under bridges.

He tells Millie if America can't
house its homeless why should
the country take in Syrians.
He admits Bosnians who came
in 1995 are doing very well.

But Willie has reservations
as do many American Indians
who live on reservations.
Indians have homes and services,
nothing to celebrate, but better
than the homeless in America.

Willie points this out to Millie
when they sit down to a pair
of Cornish hens on Christmas Day.
Willie grabs a drumstick
and says maybe the Syrians
should have reservations
about coming here until
America finds a way
to house and feed its own.

Millie works on a wing
and tries to figure out how
America can do both.



Paddy stops at Rosen's Deli
and orders brisket
on a Kaiser roll, a dab
of horseradish, a new
pickle on the side.

"Latke, too, Sol. Coffee later.
No dinner tonight.
Maggie's not feeling well.
I'll eat here and take a tub
of noodle soup to go."

Paddy eats and meets Sol
wrestling with his register.
"How's Mrs. Rosen, Sol?
Haven't seen her in
a month of Sundays."

"Could be cancer, Paddy.
They operate next week.
Things don't look good.
Doc says everything depends
on what they find inside."

Paddy has no idea what to say.
He knows Minerva Rosen better
than he knows old Sol.
Years ago she handed him
his first new pickle.

"At church tomorrow, Sol,
Maggie and I will pray hard.
I hope to God it works.
At times, praying's all
anyone can do."


Today’s LittleNip:


All lives matter now
unless they're inconvenient.
No room in the womb.


—Medusa, thanking today's fine contributors, and wishing them and everyone else a Merry Christmas and a season full of peace and good cheer!

 Revelers at the Cornish Christmas Fest
Grass Valley, CA, Dec. 2015