Friday, July 01, 2016

John Wayne, High Tea, and Parents Night

—Poems by Donal J. Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


This is Granny in the Ozarks calling.
Please come down before spring
goes away for summer.

The geese are coming through
and landing on the pond
as they do every spring.

You can watch them dip
and flutter the way you used to.
When I go down to the barn

the geese rise in a perfect V.
They come back when I go away
and will stay for another week.

I hate to scare the geese
but I have to milk the cow
and feed the hen.

Maybe you can show me
on that pad thing you gave me
why geese rise in a perfect V.

 Jenkinson Lake, Pollock Pines, CA


They're the oldest couple
my wife and I know
and we’re no pups either.

Peter out for a walk
leans on his cane often
to admire my wife’s garden.

The English roses remind him
of home, he says, and one day
he invites us over for tea
at the civilized hour of 3.

That day at 3
we enter an old world
in a Victorian house
and are served tea in
porcelain cups with warm
scones and marmalade.
They arrive on a silver tray.

It’s a presentation
one might expect
at the proper hour at
Buckingham Palace or
in a nice cottage in England.

Peter excuses himself
for a moment and I get brave
and ask his wife how long
they have been married.

Sixty years, Mary whispers,
and then with a tinkling giggle
she says whenever Peter
enters a room her heart
still beats faster.

 Shoreline, Jenkinson Lake


Emma used to do real good in school
her mother tells her new teacher.
It’s Parents Night at Ryland Elementary.
Mostly mothers in attendance.

What’s the problem, her mother asks.
Fifth grade shouldn’t be hard for her.
Emma's never had a grade lower than
a B, her mother says.

Teacher says Emma doesn’t do
her homework and talks a lot in class.
Her mother can’t believe it.
Says her father won’t either.

She says Emma goes to her room
right after supper with all her books,
studies till 10, brushes her teeth
and goes to bed.

Bill's mother’s next in line to ask
the new teacher what’s the problem
with her son Bill, who did so well
at his other school.

Afterward the mothers meet
over cookies and a glass of punch
and wonder whether this new teacher
can communicate with Emma and Bill.

They don’t know Emma’s awake
till midnight texting new friend Bill,
who’s in her class this year.
They like each other a lot.


Father the chameleon was lime green
the first day I saw him peering into
my crib smiling and he remained

lime green until kindergarten
when a nun called the house and said
I was disrupting the class and would

he come and have a talk with her.
He remained wildfire red until
the college he paid big money to

expelled me as a senior for sending
chickens clucking in big crates
to a French professor who gave me

a B instead of an A, thereby killing
my chance for an Ivy League law school.
When I got home and told Father

his face glowed purple as eggplant
and he began taking huge pills
day and night, even when a small

law school finally gave me a chance.
The day I passed the bar exam Father
was whiter than his pills in his coffin.


I found an old friend
in a cardboard box
in the basement
where I left him
forty years ago.

His body was intact
but he never had a heart
which is why I left him
with drafts of other
poems published
long ago on paper
in little magazines
decades before
computers appeared.

The poems were born
on a Royal typewriter
with carbon paper
serving as midwife.
He was the only one
I didn't sent out
but didn’t have
the heart to abort.

I took him upstairs
to see if my skills
as a surgeon
had developed.
Maybe I could give him
a heart on my iMac.
So far so good.
He’s not perfect
but he’s wriggling.
If he doesn’t reject
his new heart
I’ll let you know
how he turns out.


I will never forget him
but I can’t remember his name
it’s been so long ago.
Maybe I never knew it.

But I think of him on days
America celebrates its veterans—
Memorial Day, July 4th,
Veterans Day, D-Day.
The wars are all remembered
but not so much this one.

He was Billy's big brother
and more than 60 years ago
Billy and the rest of us
were in 8th grade watching
him climb a ladder
and hammer a hoop
on the roof of a garage
so we could play ball
while he went to Korea.

I saw him again when he
came back from Korea.
He was walking in circles
in the family’s backyard
smoking Pall Malls,
one after another, talking
to no one we could see.

We were practicing at
the hoop he nailed up
before he went to Korea.
We were seniors
in high school then
and had to be ready.
We practiced all summer
for the season ahead.


Some women use perfume
and that’s fine.
Some don’t

and that’s fine too.
Over the years
I’ve found I prefer

a woman au jus.
I married one years ago
and I still salivate.


He likes people
if they are useful.
Women are useful.
Employees are useful.
Voters are useful.
Tax experts are useful
when you have
that kind of money.

You get the feeling
he loves his children
and that’s a good thing.

But despite the thunder
with which he’s galloped
out of his skyscrapers
to capture so much
of America, deep
in your heart you know
even if he puts on
a ten-gallon hat
he's no John Wayne.


Today’s LittleNip:


I am sorry to hear the news.
I lost it when I heard about hers
and now to hear about yours.

I’m livid at times, peaceful rarely.
If you prefer, I won't forward emails
about her until you recover.

I thought you should know
how the doctors say she is doing.
Meanwhile I write about anything

rather than yell about everything.
Some days I go to the basement
and yell when no one is home.


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney for today’s fine poetry, and to Katy Brown for her wonderful photos.

 Celebrate poetry by heading over to Avid Reader at the Tower 
in Sacramento at 7pm tonight to Mosaic of Voices, featuring 
Yuyutsu RD Sharma, Dr. Andy Jones, and Allegra Silberstein
Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) 
for info about this and other upcoming readings in our area—
and note that other readings may be added at the last minute.

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.