Friday, July 14, 2017

Spelunking With Donal

Caverns of Sonora, Texas
—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, Belleville, IL


A spelunker he was
from adolescence on.
An outdoorsman

with the best equipment
exploring caves
one after another

shining a big flashlight
as he weaved among the
stalactites and stalagmites

saying he would never
explore another cave
once he found the right one.

He found that cave at forty,
sold his flashlight,
married and settled down.

 Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar


Noon meal at the nursing home
and everyone is there
chowing down and talking.

Before dessert is served there’s
an announcement to be made
and Maxine is the one to do it

from somewhere in the room.
But few can see her since she’s tiny
just turned 90 and cannot stand.

She’s been doing this for years
and once she starts talking even
the deaf believe they hear.

She’s their Aretha when she booms
“Let’s be in the day room, folks, at 3.
It’s our flu shot time of year."



Fred’s a reasonable man
something he takes pride in.
Just the other night

before he threw a dish
against the wall while
talking with his wife

he told her if he knew
what was wrong with him
he’d see a professional.

Right now he’s too busy.
Two new patients tomorrow
coming in for therapy.

 Waitomo Caves. New Zealand


The old man
crossing the street
has a bad limp

we try to ignore.
No one wants to look
at a limp like that.

We like to think
no one else can see
the limp we have

the limp we earned
by ignoring little people
who get in our way

who strike us as
the litter of life we
want swept away.



Happened 40 years ago
senior year of college
they were engaged
to marry in June
till he dropped her off
one night at the dorm
and she said something

He can’t remember
what she said but he
moved to Alaska
married another
she married another too
they had nice families
beautiful children

Widowed now they meet
at the class reunion
she’s a lovely woman
and likes him still
they dance and she says
she saved his ring
would he like it back

It’s a keepsake, he says
tells her to keep it
He can’t remember
what she said that night
at the dorm but he feels
the same pain again
and gets in his truck
it’s home to Alaska

 Mountain River Cave, Vietnam


She was old already
when you had her in 8th grade
and she said you should sit
in the first seat third row
right in front of her for
the rest of the year.

That was half of your sentence
for getting caught rolling
marbles down the aisle
and disturbing the class.

She gave you a choice about
the rest of your sentence.
You could diagram 30 sentences
a night for the rest of the year.
Or she could call your father
and tell him what happened.
Diagramming sounded
very good to you.

Ten years later you finished
a master’s in English and
wanted to thank this nun
who had turned a gutter ball
into a strike but she was
no longer at the school.

Another nun told you she was
in a rest home out of state
and you couldn’t call her or visit.
You could write but you shouldn't
expect an answer.
She was not doing well.

Turning gutter balls into strikes
for more than 30 years
with nitwits like you
had taken its toll.

 Cenote Dos Ojos, Mexico


Long article in the paper
this morning stops Tim from
gobbling his bacon and eggs.

Bears are starving in the woods.
Too many cubs, too little food.
There’s a plan to feed them.

But no plan yet to feed people
in the city nearby waving signs
about working for food.


A long time ago
you bothered him somehow.
Since then he has
bothered you back.
You don’t know how or
when you offended him.
You must have said something.
Always asking how you voted.

Many times you told him
you're sorry for whatever
you said or did back then
but it has done no good.
He gets red in the face
and starts shouting
whenever he sees you.

Finally you find a new job
and move the family
to another city.
Things are peaceful.
You forget about him.

Thirty years later
a knock on the door.
He’s flown in from a cabin
he's built in the woods.
He’s a survivalist now,
collects guns and says
the world is under attack
and you are an agent
for the enemy.

You have no time to leave
a note with his name
for the first-responders.
You would have told them to
find this man soon
and put him away.
Others like you are alive
who have bothered him also.
He’s taking planes
all over America
hoping to find them.
Today he found you.

 Marble Caves, Patagonia


The bog above Bob Gordon’s bog
is where they found the body of
an older man floating like a canoe
among the lily pads. He was
covered with crustaceans.

Folks from town and towns
around came to see if he might be
one of theirs, perhaps someone
liquored up who went astray
and fell in the bog while traipsing.

But no one knew the victim so
undertaker Flynn had to bury him
behind Bob Gordon’s bog among
the other strangers buried there
holding up blank tombstones.



They are a certain way
certain ladies are today
no matter where they are

summer, fall
winter, spring even 
waiting for a bus in rain

to clean hotel rooms
an hour away
epitome of grace

 Imperial Cave 3, Jenolan Caves, Australia


Were she here with me now,
by the waist I would raise her,
a chalice of wonder.

I’d bellow hosannas
and whirl her around,
tell her again that I love her,

press my face moist
in the pleats of her skirt,
ask her to sprinkle

phlox on the curls
of our children
if they are with her,

ask her to stay a while longer
while I do so much more
were she here with me now.


Today’s LittleNip:

    a senryu

Pistols in holsters
very early this morning.
She’s wearing a bra


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney for today’s fine poetry! And no, thankfully his wife has not passed away—that's just his evocative poem about the subject.

Read more about the world’s coolest caves at

And to tell the difference between a senryu and a haiku, see

 Celebrate poetry—and editors! Tomorrow, 4:30-6:30pm, 
Phillip Larrea will be hosting “The Last Word”
an all-open mic evening, at Sacramento Voices at 
Sac. Poetry Center, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 
for the last time. He assures us that the Sac. Voices 
anthology will continue this year (under the auspices of 
Dave Boles of Cold River Press), and that the reading 
series may continue (under the auspices of SPC), 
but that he is ready for a break. For more about 
tomorrow’s reading and Phillip’s future, see 
And thank you, Phillip, for hosting a fine monthly 
reading series plus a beautiful annual anthology—no easy job! 

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