Folks You Can’t Forget

There are people
I hope to see
lolling on a cloud

in Heaven some day
but hope never to see
on Earth again

when I go out to buy
a cherry Coke
at a drugstore counter

with silver stools
and red seats
and a girl

named Norma Jean
on one of them
legs crossed

but not a blonde yet.
These are people who
have been a problem

in my life
nice people
I hope to see

lolling on a cloud
in Heaven some day
but hope never to see

on Earth again.
Too many homicides
as it is.

-- Donal Mahoney


Midnight Conversation in a Bar

The dapper young man tells
the homeless man one stool over,
After I get my law degree,
I’ll get an MBA and go to Wall Street
and make a million before I’m thirty.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
sipping the longneck
the young man has bought him.

I’ll start a business,
says the young man,
and make another million
by the time I’m forty,
buy a nice house in the country,
then franchise the business
so my kids can earn
as much money as I will.
You want your kids to do well.
Otherwise, why have them?
They cost money.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
almost finished with his beer.

I’ll retire and buy condos
in Paris and London,
go on safari to Africa,
buy gold against inflation.
Once I retire I want to have fun.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
lighting another cigarette
the young man has given him.

I’ll die when I get old
unless they invent something
that stops death, maybe a drug.
I’ll arrange my funeral
in advance, some big church,
don’t care which one
as long as they have a choir
to keep the wife happy.
And I’ll hire a good lawyer
to handle the estate.
Don’t want Uncle Sam
getting rich off me.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
looking for another drink.

-- Donal Mahoney



Just sitting here
under the shade of
the red maple tree
wishing all was plain and simple
like the way it used to be
although I guess it
never really was simple
now was it?

Just sitting here
I remember
the way you used to push me around
nights you’d come home drunk
oh, how I loved you
or did I?
maybe I was too scared
to think otherwise.

With your hands around my neck
so close to me
I could feel your breath
upon my cheeks
and the sweet smell of whisky
tickling my nostrils
could you see the excitement
in my eyes?

Your clutch hastened
as your hands moved downward
my heart beating faster
anticipating what would come next
as we made love
or was it war?
just sitting here under
the red maple tree
I remember…………

-- Cindy O'Nanski

Pastor Homer Toots His Horn

Pastor Homer is a jealous man
and Opal gives him fits
through 40 years of marriage
dancing, laughing
kissing other men
on New Year’s Eve  
when midnight strikes.

And every year when Opal
kisses other men
Pastor Homer in his party hat
toots his party horn
and hollers from his wheelchair,
“If Judas had a sister,
Opal, you'd be it.”

-- Donal Mahoney


I used to dream
in black and white
but now I dream in color.
Blood is red and real
puddling on the pavement
not some shadow
from the past.

The further back I go
the more the blood puddles
becoming ponds
becoming lakes
becoming oceans
suddenly a giant seiche
foaming across the sidewalk

throwing me back  
to where I have to go
to find the hand
that held the knife
decades ago
when the blood
began to flow.

I'll tell the bastard
after all these years
it’s easy to forgive
harder to forget.
The time has come
to pray before
all is said and done.

-- Donal Mahoney

An Atheist on Sunday

On Sunday his wife
and children walk
to Mass

and he goes
into his garden
to work

all day
primping roses
lilies, dahlias

weeding, pruning
making things right
on his altar of life.

At dusk he brings
his heaven home
in soiled hands.

A big bouquet  
for a wife
suddenly in tears.

-- Donal Mahoney

bob dylan in a skirt

i wonder was she the one
i gave money to at the
bedford/ north 7th street
she was singing a beatles song
and it sounded
or, maybe it was at grand
army plaza
as i was heading for the 3?
she was doing a motown ditty
i met her at union square
buying a jimi hendrix button
she believed he was
killed by a conspiracy
just like i believe
new orleans was killed by katrina
the bureaucrats let it die
so it could be disneyfied
into a playground for rich white people
like her, the radios
in my house were tuned
to different stations
my tastes beyond eclectic
she's got opinions
but, as my grandmother always said
" i'd rather have an opinion
than be an onion
maybe i'm weird
but i've stopped going to open mikes
sometimes, just writing poetry
is enough
next time i see her
i'll drop some money
in her guitar case
the kind that doesn't make a sound
i won't let her know
about my weakness for cute jewish girls
but that her song means something
to me

-- erren geraud kelly


Two black cats
come over the fence
this morning

circle each other
all over the yard
hissing and leaping

into a ball
rolling like sagebrush
into the pool.

I fish them out
with a trout net.
Two wet mops

in silence
drying on the lawn.

-- Donal Mahoney


Around here it’s still beer and, of course, the time of year
whole carloads crowded loud with music, speeding along
end the night in a number of ways: get pulled over, police
blue lights flashing, sirens blurring, the driver carted off and
parents called, something they’ll recall, joke about later; or
they crash somewhere, head-on, into a stray bridge abutment
an oak tree by the side of the road, oncoming traffic, or even
upside-down in a river, the ambulance and police, parents and
survivors create a haunting scene; or other nights they come out
okay in the end, wake late the next day, recall only parts of what
went on, becomes a joke of sorts, something to brag about, part
of their legend, their mythology; around here it’s still mostly beer
and the chances we take being young; I remember waking late
wondering where I left the car, remember police cars out front
and trying to explain what we did, trying to make it sound better
than it was, and I remember another time the police at the door
to say my brother ended his night, his life head-on into oncoming
traffic, at least he was alone that time, a scene I never saw but still
imagine, sirens, red and blue lights flashing, the truck he hit, and his
body lit up, crushed; my brother on the road, forever underage.  

-- J. K. Durick


We pile them up, pile them on, but disguise them
As best we can, dress them up in colorful paper,
Ribbons and bows, carefully selected or not

We arrive at the door with one under our arms
Wait for just the right moment to present them,
The presents our presence demands, our offering

To the moment, our present settling the future;
Presents unwrapped become desperate pen sets
And/or ties, become earrings or bottles of wine

Of perfume, become things we thought would
Fit, would appreciate the moment our presence
Brings with it, a gift, an explanation of sorts of

How things are, we wrap so many things like this,
Some good paper, ribbon and bows, disguise
Them that way and hope they work some magic.

-- J. K. Durick 

They Don’t Know I’m Listening

So here I am, all decked out
in a new suit from Brooks Brothers,
haberdasher to corporate stars.

My wife just got here, rattled.
The kids have been here for hours,
flying in for the occasion.

My wife will make certain  
I look as spiffy as possible.
The oldest boy just told her

a neighbor has agreed
to cut the grass, rake the leaves
and shovel the snow, chores

I performed for decades in return
for a mug of coffee and wedge of pie.
Now my wife is asking the undertaker  

to puff out my tie, something she did
before I’d go to the office, armed
with a thermos and brown paper bag.

-- Donal Mahoney


Seeing through the Fog

In the Shady Lane Nursing Home
Aunt Bea crochets and tells her niece
sitting and listening this Sunday afternoon

that the young ones pushing wheel chairs
changing sheets and bringing trays
must learn to knock because

they’re unaware he’s behind that door
under the big clock in the day room
where the old ones sit for hours

watching television, praying,
writing letters, weeping,
asking to go home.

He's always there, she says,
and he has the answers but
the young ones have to knock

ask him what he wants
because he’s a question
not just an answer.

-- Donal Mahoney


An Ode to Heraclitus

It’s true that nothing stays the same,
the lead singer taking over the former
crooner’s place,
learning of death on a late Friday night,
wondering how the weight will fall,
will this result in a withdrawal into self,
watching the slow destruction of the building
where we met and knew each other better,
listening to the words that used to give
comfort, now blaringly shallow and vague,
finally forgetting who we were as children,
becoming whatever it is we are now,
be it husk or full-fledged living creature,
be it static or dynamic character
filling the void of the page.

-- JD DeHart


You are a piece of art they have not decided
to start appreciating, dear, and please forget them
anyway.  They are rabble.
They are too busy worrying about their prescriptions,
their car payments,
their brand-new jobs to pay you any mind.
Too busy learning about new flavors of cheap wine,
they fail to recognize how you take the best
of them, distilled, refined, lip-burning, because
you are their kindest thoughts and words
made flesh, while they content themselves
with the dreadful remnants swimming in their cup,
you are the incarnation of their faint possibility.

-- JD DeHart

What Plato Said to Socrates

He has to know they’ll never
understand, yet he keeps talking –
Why does he keep trying?
Doesn’t he care about me at all?
They’re all too buried deep in caverns,
listening to their juicy music,
thinking about how to earn money
or get into bed with each other,
and he’s going on about the truth.
Dig deep, he tells them, and they look
at him like, We don’t have shovels, dude.
If it’s in them, I don’t see it.
What I see is the mob, the gulp of poison,
then me – aimless wanderer, the guy
strolling around saying, Remember when
he used to teach us?
Remember that?  They probably won’t.

-- JD DeHart

The Journey of Davis

She’s got chicken bones in the back seat
and one of those large decals about Jesus,
His Wonderful Saving Grace,
plastered onto the windshield so one wonders
how she can even see around the neon?
Her couch always smells like cheese,
but like manufactured cheese – not the real stuff,
like what aliens think cheese tastes like.
She’s got hands for going through garbage bags
full of clothes, a mouth that makes excuses
and poems out of profanity at a moment’s notice.
She knows how to work the system,
fake an injury, get out of a ticket,
fill out the government forms just right.
But she has no idea how to redeem herself
or how to give a gift, which is her
wagon rolling, tire thumping tragedy.

-- JD DeHart