Friday, January 15, 2016

Naked on a Sheet of Foolscap

Fuzzy in Vines
—Photo by Carol Bales, St. Louis, MO
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


Every morning
before the sun comes up
there’s a feral cat on our deck
waiting for a can of Fancy Feast.
It’s been that way for years.

It’s not always the same cat
because feral cats come and go
but barring a downpour of rain
or an overnight pile of snow
there’s always a cat
outside our door, looking
through the screen
waiting for service,
sometimes licking its lips.

The same cat can appear
at the door for weeks,
months, even years.
They’re close friends
with my wife but not with me.
We aren’t enemies but
the cats favor my wife.
I understand why.

The cats find our house, I think,
not because the cat underground
says the food’s good but 
somehow the cats know
my wife was a farm girl
that barn cats loved before
she went off to college and
took a job in the city.

I think they begin to believe
my wife is one of them
because almost every summer
she comes out in the afternoon
and sits on the deck and
the morning cat comes back
over the fence and hops up
on her lap for a serious petting.

Over the years the cats and I
have been acquaintances at best.
They know I’m the one who puts 
the can out before dawn
while my wife sleeps in.
But not one of them has ever
cozied up to me, the caterer,
or why not call it as it is,

the man with the can.
I have no problem with that
even if the best greeting
I can expect is caterwauling
on the rare morning I’m slow
popping the lid.

 (Anonymous Photo)


If I knew I'd live forever
I'd never send a poem out.
No poem ever comes with

ten fingers and ten toes
so I’d keep revising, add
what's missing, remove

what shouldn’t be there
and put in the right fillip.
One can only write

while the sun streams in
because too soon
the moon comes out

and in the dark
one can’t fix a thing.
Once you’re dead

your poems live on,
warts and all, naked
on a sheet of foolscap

or afloat in cyberspace
for all to read and fault.
It’s Judgment Day.



First time seeing this doctor,
a specialist. Took a month
to get an appointment.
The waiting room’s packed.
I grab the last seat
next to a lady in a wheelchair
knitting something,
perhaps for a grandchild.

I pull out my cell phone
like everyone else
but just to check messages,
not into games.
No one’s looking at magazines,
it seems, any more.
It’s a cell phone world,
messages and Tic-Tac-Toe.

Half an hour later the lady
stops knitting and whispers,
“Sit back and relax, son.
Life’s a waiting room.
We all have appointments.
Every name is called.
Even those who believe
no doctor is in."

 (Anonymous Photo)


There are too many nuts with guns,
Willie tells Millie at Starbucks,
as they sip their lattes.
What can be done?
Congress will never
agree to a solution.

Willie and Millie admit
they don’t know
what can be done
to stop the massacres
in America.

Willie, a city boy, doesn’t hunt
except for good restaurants
but he’s not opposed to hunters
as long as they eat what they kill.
Shooting an animal for a trophy
over the mantel makes no
sense to Willie or Millie.
No sport in that.

But two nights ago two guys
broke into Ralph’s house
down the street
and he shot them dead
with a pistol he bought
and had never used.
His wife didn’t know
he had a gun in the house.

So now Willie and Millie
sip their lattes and revisit
the idea of buying a pistol
and taking lessons in how
to shoot the damn thing.
Not welcome at their age.

Willie says no pistol yet
but tells Millie it’s time
to buy a Wolfhound.
Millie says no pistol
but wants a Mastiff instead.
Then both of them agree
bullets kill dogs as well.

They head out to the car
to make a few stops
before going home.
What stops they’ll make
they haven’t decided
but they both realize
something has to be done.



Woman in a window
brushing long hair madly
screams at a little boy

down in the street
licking an ice cream cone
some man gave him

some man she doesn’t know
not the man she’s
brushing her hair for

who doesn't show up.
The man with the ice cream
may have to do.

 (Anonymous Photo)


The scruffy old man
and his white poodle
on a long red leash
were neighborhood icons
years ago down at the corner
where children laughed
and petted the dog while
waiting for the school bus.

Every afternoon
when the bus came back
to drop them off
the scruffy old man
and his poodle were there
and the kids would
laugh and take turns
petting the dog again.

Those children grew up
and went away.
The ones who wait
for the school bus today
have never seen
the white poodle
on the long red leash.

They don’t know the dog
got out of its yard one day
when the scruffy old man
didn't lock his gate.

No wonder the children
find it strange to see
a scruffy old man
bent over and
talking to himself
in a language
they can't understand
walking a long red leash.



I'm on my way to Larry’s Place,
a food pantry in the city.
I park a block away because

parking in front of Larry’s
isn’t wise even if one drives
a clunker. My old Buick

almost qualifies as that.
It’s getting up in years
but still able to get around.

I’m wobbling in the middle of
two shopping bags of food
my wife found in our pantry.

Someone at Larry’s Place can
take it home and have a meal.
If they have a home. Not all do.

Certainly not the fellow sleeping
on the bench outside Larry’s
in a black body bag, the zipper

slightly ajar so he can breathe.
Lots of people go in and out
but no one bothers him.

I go in, drop off my bags and
exchange pleasantries with Larry.
He says business is too good.

He says the guy in the body bag
is a new arrival from out of town,
suggests I have a chat with him.

His story is remarkable, Larry says.
On the way out I see the fellow
in the body bag is sitting up.

I give him five bucks
and he asks if I want to hear
the story about his body bag.

I say I’d like to but I’m rushed,
that I’ll be back tomorrow with
my notebook and camera and

I’ll pay him. After all, everyone
has to make a living. Or find
their food at Larry’s Place.

(Anonymous Photo) 


If you want to know
what it’s like to have nothing
just for a day

head for Skid Row.
Trade your suit and 20 bucks
for the attire of a resident

standing against a wall.
Buy a tin cup and yellow pencils
and go to Union Station in time

for the evening rush hour
when suburbanites with jobs
on Michigan Avenue go home

for dinner and a little HBO.
Flop down near the entrance
in your tatters with pencils and cup.

Wear Charles Bronson sunglasses
and hold high a sign that says,
“Will Work for Food.”

Count the briefcases that sail by
and see how many pencils you sell,
how many people even look at you

before the gendarmes arrive
and poke you with a baton
then walk you away.



Can you hear me in the bunker, Leroy?
Sorry to hear ISIS has you in a funk.
But I’m delighted to know you’re not afraid

camouflaged in your bunker with an AK-47.
Now you’re telling me ISIS is the python
wrapped around the equator

squeezing our planet to death,
that ISIS will end global warming
and take out Putin too, that both are

greater threats than the global warming
you’ve preached against since the Ice Age.
We wonder how you’ll vote on Election Day. 

 Cat Under
(Anonymous Photo)


Decades ago a small college
out in the boondocks
put Ambrose, a freshman,
on a Greyhound Bus to attend
a student convention in New York.
No other student wanted to go.
The college had to send someone.

On the bus Ambrose sat next
to a blind man who spent most
of the trip telling Ambrose,
a farm boy, all about women.
Ambrose listened with awe.
Everything he heard was new.

Ambrose knew little about girls
but had always liked them.
For his high school prom,
a friend set him up with a
quiet girl who needed a date.
Ambrose liked Shirley.

Back then, TV sets were small
with the picture in black and white.
“I Love Lucy” topped the charts.
It was Ambrose’s favorite show.

Back then, girls saved themselves
for marriage so most of what
the blind man told Ambrose
was breaking news to him.
So many girls, what to do?
He didn’t have money to date.

Ambrose is now a retired farmer,
the father of nine, who often reflects
on the blind man’s advice when he
sits in his rocker and wonders
after 50 years with Shirley if
the blind man was right to say:

“Son, it doesn’t matter how pretty
a woman is because every woman
has the basics any man needs.
Sample a few and find out.
Besides, you can trust me
when I tell you they all look
the same in the dark.”


Today’s LittleNip:


Harvey at 80
is losing his hearing.
He can’t hear his wife

when she talks,
a symphony lost.
But at dusk

in the garden
alone in a lawn chair
with a glass of iced tea

cubes circling
Harvey can hear
the whippoorwill ask

and the cricket reply
and that’s all the truth
that he needs.


Our thanks to Donal Mahoney for today’s fine poems, and to Carol Bales for the photo of “Fuzzy,” who Donal says is “feral cat du jour at our place, a humongous Maine Coon cat, apparently pure-bred. Fuzzy has a foot fetish, a first among many feral cats who have spent time at our place. He will loll around on anyone’s feet, rubbing his head in ecstasy till said feet are removed.” Donal feeds this ungrateful mouser every morning around 4 a.m. with never a meow of thanks. But he admires this cat very much. Fuzzy would have had beautiful kittens if someone hadn’t fixed him. Maybe that’s how he got the foot fetish. Robert Graves once wrote a poem about a foot fetish, title of which Donal cannot now recall. He read it circa 1960 at a newsstand in the Saturday Review or New Yorker. Did not apply to cats."

By the way, de Young art handler Robert Lee Haycock has NOT been promoted to Director of the museum. ’Twas all a hoax, and Medusa apologizes for not checking with the source (Robert Lee) before posting. My bad… It’s enough to make one tear one’s snakes out!

Here’s what I DO know, though: Carol Louise Moon sent me a copy of the latest issue of DADs DESK, which she edits (and will continue to do so), but she passed on the news that she is no longer editing Poetry Now; that position has been turned over to Rhony Bhopla. And PNow will now be online rather than a print journal. Congrats, Rhony, and thank you, Carol Louise, for your work on the editorship! DADs DESK, Sacramento’s only large-print journal, is available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac. DD is published four times a year; subscriptions are available for $8/year.