Friday, October 21, 2016

Wheelchair With a View

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


This Monarch butterfly
dances from petal to petal
red, yellow and orange

sits for a while
on each and then
suddenly is gone

returns again to dine  
several times today in  
this painting by Monet.



It’s a kindergarten soccer team
and Jack’s the biggest kid.
His father is the coach.

The team is undefeated
but there’s a problem
on the field because Jack

has stopped to pick some
wildflowers for his mother
smiling in the stands.


This brilliant winter morning finds
waves of snow on every lawn
and red graffiti dripping
from the walls
of Temple Mizpah
once again
as down the street
stroll ancient men
who every morning
shuffle here for prayer.

As usual, they're lost
inside old overcoats,
their collars up,
their scarves too long,
their yarmulkes,
as always,
in diffidence

This morning, though,
they don't go in.
They shuffle near the curb
like quail.
They can't believe
the goose-step scrawl
on every wall.
They know their world's
awry again, an encore
of the chaos left behind
when they were young.

The good thing is,
Chicago's better now
than was Berlin back then
even though the temple walls
make clear this morning that
someone's struck another match
and the ovens of Auschwitz
are crackling again.



When you were a boy in 1948
living on a block of bungalows
in Chicago right after WWII
you had a red wagon
you pulled behind your mother
going to the grocery store.

Rationing of food was over.
Beef was back and butter too,
no more margarine you had to add
yellow to. Now you had big bags
of groceries to pull all the way home
in your red wagon with your mother
in a house dress, swinging her purse
and smiling behind you.

You were the man of the house
on hot summer days and your
red wagon was the family car
because although your father
had a car, an old Plymouth, 
he took it to work every day
and didn’t get home until
late at night because of
the splendor of overtime.

The only caveat was
your red wagon had to have
Radio Flyer painted on the side
or the other boys would say
you didn’t have a real wagon.
The war was over but they said
your family couldn’t afford one.
Same thing when you got
your first two-wheel bike.
If it wasn’t a Schwinn, they said
your family couldn’t afford one. 


Better take his wife to lunch
after what he said yesterday.
A slip of the tongue.

But where to take her?
The Chinese buffet?
The Indian buffet?

Maybe the Japanese place.
She likes sushi and tempura.
But when he asks about lunch

she says not a chance.
She has to clean the house.
Cleaning lady comes today.



Annie has a nice washing machine now
but she remembers the one her
mother had with the wringer,
the old-fashioned kind.

Her mother took in washing and when
the washing machine would break
Annie would become half the wringer.
Mother would hold the waist of wet pants

and Annie would grip the cuffs and
they’d twist in opposite directions,
the cold water raining between them.
Each pair of farmer’s pants

put food on the table. With six kids
food was important. To this day Annie
smiles when she remembers her  
Mother never had to use a pants

stretcher in winter to make
her ironing a little bit easier.
She’d hang the pants out in the yard
and they’d freeze straight on the line. 


An hour a day,
sometimes more,
I chipped away
with mallet and chisel
on a block of marble
I found in Carrara
and shipped to New York
on the deck of a trawler.

I offered the marble
to a famous sculptor
who told me he works
in granite only
so I grabbed his beret
and one of his smocks
and said I'd sculpt
the block myself
with whittling skills
picked up as a kid
from a drunken uncle
named Whittling Sid.

Several weeks later,
to my surprise,
I finished the bust
of a chimpanzee
simply by wielding
mallet and chisel
the way I wield
pencil and eraser
when hewing a poem.

Working with marble
or working with words,
a sculptor or poet
proves less is more
by chipping away
until something emerges
upright and walking
with a soul of its own.



It's many miles from easy to the end.
For some, the end is dawn. For others it's
the nightfall of imbroglio because

the end depends upon your ticket
and every ticket's punched one-way.
No round-trip tickets, save perhaps

for some who claim a mulligan,
who say they need another chance.
It's true that some may need a mulligan

if they leave without a destination,
while others know which port
they'll dock in. Or so they say.

When they arrive, however,
and find no hula skirts or leis,
they may gasp and cry, "Who knew?"

while somewhere in the clouds
a blinking neon sign proclaims
it's many miles from easy to the end.


We worry so much
because we’re nice people.
We want to find a way

to feed the poor
house the poor
employ the poor.

No wonder some say
nip the problem
in the bud.

Pluck them from the womb.
Sell their parts.
Recycle them.



If love’s real, not
the puppy kind, it’s
not just a feeling
but an act of the will

a constant giving
whether one
feels like it or not.
After many years

you don’t know why
you’re doing it
or why It must be done.
Two begin as grapes

purple with passion
unaware you'll be
raisins wrinkling
at the end.

 Marina, Berkeley, CA


When you sit in this chair all day
and look out the window for years,
the garden is calendar and clock

declaring the coming of seasons.
You know when to expect them
but spring is always a surprise.

After surviving long winters
you forget after so many years
the daffodils will shout again

and blooms on the redbud cover
leaves that will hide young robins,
their beaks open for more.

Winter is all you remember until,
for reasons only God knows,
spring smiles again.


Today’s LittleNip:

GARDEN GIRLS (a senryu)

Eight blondes with brown eyes
nod at working men nearby.
Sunflowers rule the sky.


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney from St. Louis and Cynthia Linville from Sacramento, and a note that the 18th issue of the Bay Area’s
Ginosko Literary Journal is now available at (suggested donation of $2). And don’t be shy about submitting your own poetry there, either—there's a handy black button there that's just waiting for you to give it a click!

 Celebrate the poetry that is our fellow creatures, and 
head over to Davis tonight for the reading by Dennis Hock 
and Beth Suter at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 
7:30pm. 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.

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.