Friday, January 29, 2016

Hieroglyphics in the Snow

—Photos by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


Dreams I can’t remember
cause a conflagration

fire hoses can’t put out.
Dreams I can recall

arrive in technicolor.
They’re no problem.

I call my buddy Clint
who mounts his palomino,

gallops into the room,
aims and makes my day.



Underneath the feeder
black juncos write
hieroglyphics in the snow.

Two cardinals arrive
In a flash of red. They add
a message of their own.

Over the fence comes Tom,
an old calico. In seconds
he erases everything.

 Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, NM


Fifty years ago
Jane got on a plane
and flew away
without saying good-bye.
Her parents took her, I know.
She was only 14 but she
could have said good-bye

to me, the swain
who saw her through
our last three years
of grammar school
when she wore braces,
the only girl who had them.

Fifty years later
at our class reunion
she didn’t come
but I did in a new suit.
Charlie showed me
a class photo of all of us
smiling except for Jane.
The braces, I guess.
Charlie asked how many kids
I could name and I named
every one except for Jane.

Charlie said with mock surprise,
“You don’t remember Jane?
You two were pretty tight,
going to the movies and
sitting in the balcony,
buttered popcorn and all,
a pretty big deal back then.
Someone told the nuns
and they were furious."

I smiled and said
“Well, Jane flew away
the summer after eighth grade
without saying good-bye.
I heard ten years later
she got rid of the braces
and married some Swede
who likes sardines.
He makes his own lutefisk.
I wish Jane and Ole well.
She was only 14 but she
could have said good-bye.”

Albuquerque Airport


When my neighbor told me
over the fence
a month ago
the doctor said
she had two years to live,
I took her at her word.

Then two weeks later
her daughter calls
and says the funeral
is Saturday.
What to make of this?

I look out the window
over to her yard
as I have for 30 years and see
the garage door’s down.
Not something I’d expect
on a summer day like this.

She should be on her mower,
a buckaroo riding,
or on her knees weeding
but I see nothing over there
except grass growing.

This winter, tell me
who will I sit across from
doing jigsaw puzzles 
while sipping Earl Grey tea
and pining aloud for spring.

She told me once
life’s a jigsaw puzzle
that doesn’t end until
the last piece is in place.
This time she found
the last piece before
the others were in place.

 Ojo Caliente


Unlike his peers
his office holds
no photo of a wife
no indication that he has
fathered five
and probably
will father more.
There’s a silver ashtray, though,
and a tinkling chandelier
and carpeting
his wife would like
soars across the floor.



Ruth's at an age
where she's happy
to sit in the sun
under a patio umbrella
and watch a line of ants
curve across a path
carrying seed
to their burrow.

She and her husband
watched ants
parade each summer
for forty years.
Always the same burrow,
Ruben would stress.
But different ants,
life being what it is.

Ruben didn't like the ants.
They reminded him,
he said, of his parents
in line at Dachau,
waiting to find out
if there's a heaven,
wanting to know
if God was watching.

 Santa Fe


When the President
speaks from the podium
and mentions the 20 children

shot to death at Sandy Hook
by a lunatic with a rifle,
he often wipes away a tear

and who can blame him?
But he doesn’t shed a tear
when he speaks about

Planned Parenthood
and the thousands of children
mothers leave behind there.



What will she do with him?
That is, if she’s elected.
She’ll have to take him

with her to the White House
after keeping him in the doghouse.
Maybe the FBI can put

the doghouse out on the lawn.
He shouldn’t be a problem there.
Only men jump over the fence.



Let’s check the terminal and see
what jobs might be available
to match your skill set,
the interviewer said.
The young man
sitting next to the desk
was wearing a plaid shirt
and his first tie.

I know you'll take any job
but let’s see what we can find.
A young man like you, Deon,
just starting out, has his
entire life ahead of him.

Here’s the personal stuff
you gave me so let’s go over it
and you tell me if I have
everything right.

Your father left your mother
when you were two and then
your mother died when
you were four and your granny
took you and your brothers in.
But she died in an auto accident
when you were ten.

An uncle took you after that
and he had trouble finding work.
Food was scarce and you
kept moving place to place.
He tried hard, you said.

An aunt in another city
took your little sister and
she sounds fine on the phone
when you get a chance to talk.
Your brothers went to foster homes
and you see them now and then.
Things aren't going too well for them.

You graduated from grammar school,
then dropped out of high school
and went back to get your GED.
You’re 18 now and have never
worked anywhere before.
You have no car, no driver’s license,
and no record with the police.

You live deep in the city but
are willing to work in the suburbs.
Transportation’s not a problem
because your church has
bus passes for anyone who
needs them to get to work.
Let’s hope that’s you, Deon.

Bus passes are important because
most jobs you qualify for are
out in the suburbs, a long trip,
but our city buses do go there.
From your address I’d say
it will take an hour or more
each way, maybe a little longer
in winter weather with
the snow plows and all.

Now here's a restaurant chain
with seven outlets in the suburbs
looking for young workers
with a GED and no experience
to wash dishes and bus tables.

It’s minimum wage but no benefits
and you'd start on the third shift,
apply for the second shift when
an opening occurs, and then apply
for the first shift after you’ve
been there at least a year.

Then you'd wait for an opening
on the salad bar and after a year
with the veggies you’d want to
look for an opening on the grill
but that’s third shift again.

I’d be happy to set up an interview
but that’s all I have at the moment.
You want me to call now, Deon?
Or do you want to sleep on it.
This is America. It’s your choice.


Today’s LittleNip:


Robin on the lawn.
Three hops and stops to listen.
Somewhere must be spring.


Many thanks to Donal Mahoney and Cynthia Linville for such a hearty breakfast today! A couple of notes on upcoming events: this Sunday, join host Frank Andrick for his radio show, Pomo Literati, featuring Spontaneous Sunday! with Beth Lisick, Neeli Cherkovski and his tribute to Francisco Alarcón, plus drop-ins and other surprises. Tune in at

Also note that next Thursday (2/4), there will be a benefit reading for Squaw Valley Community of Writers which will feature Natalie Baszile, Meg Waite Clayton, Frances Dinkelspiel, Marian Palaia and Josh Wells. Sierra 2 Center for the Arts, 2791 24th St., Sacramento. See for tickets ($20 in advance; $25 at the door) and for bios.


 Ojo Caliente