Eye On Life Magazine

Lifestyle * Literary

It's not for the Usher to Ask

Many churches today 

have a food pantry that never

had a pantry before.


I attend a church like that.

Some folks are well-fixed, 

others poor, most betwixt.


Some had money before

but not enough now to pay 

the mortgage and then buy food


so the pantry helps them

the same way it helps clients

it has helped for years.


Some folks in the pews quietly

support the pantry with 

checks and canned goods


enabling the nouveau poor

to stand in line with the 

forever poor on Mondays. 


A neighborhood baker slips 

into the church Sunday mornings

just prior to the end of service


and quietly stacks his trays

of unsold bread in the dark foyer. 

He says nothing and disappears.


No one seems to know

who he is but the hungry

love his bread and word


of its excellence has reached

the woman who leaves church early

and always grabs two loaves


of French baguettes and is

out in the parking lot long

before anyone else and


drives off in a red Mercedes.

Perhaps she’s on unemployment, 

low on food stamps or is still


making payments on the car.

It’s not for the usher to ask.

I simply hold the door. 


-- Donal Mahoney


A poem may unfold
Like a life or newspaper
Or a message written
Inside a paper crane

The first line like
Life at the start
The newborn glimpses Mom
Looking at the universe
From the outside

A newspaper headline   
Like a poem’s first line
Nudges the reader
To take that first step
Down the garden path

Paper cranes unfold
Most often by
Accident or whim
Or because the maker

Sometimes the message
Awakens the crane
And she takes flight
A symbol of grace
Across the sky

And (alas) so must I
Since poetry editors
In the end always
Are unfolded
By last lines

Wishing a fond goodbye to Eye On Life
Tom Rubenoff
Poetry Editor 2009 - 2015

The Vee of Geese

In August heat, our lawn is dry like husks of corn.
The only catheter from clouds—a kinking,
winding garden hose that wraps its rope around
a chair and will not reach my sacred green geranium
still dappling its scarlet buds.
Fires climb the mountainsides
with nimble fingers of their flames.
It’s strange to see the gusting plumes,
the rising gray, just hanging there
like roofs on homes.

Just miles away from where we live,
evacuations take their toll—lines of heaving
pick-up trucks come crawling by.
Have you seen The Grapes of Wrath or read the book?
On our street, a little girl has lost her doll;
it fell in ditches somewhere close and so we search
like FBI hunting for a kidnapped child.
We set up just one simple stand for lemonade—
free to pairs of thirsty lips—reminisce about
our ancient childhoods when skies were different shades
of blue that rarely made us stop and think.
Before it’s 3:00, we comb the nearest grocery stores—
not a single lemon left, 30 lbs. of sugar gone.
We’re down to drinking from the hose.

Out of nowhere comes a single vee of geese,
just below the bombers plowing through the smoke,
the stinging ash—a tarnished girth
of tragedy I’ve never seen in valleys here.
The little girl is by my side; she walks, I limp—
she asks me why. I make it sound like toes we stub.
I find her doll in piles of rocks,
dusting off the chestnut braids, straightening
pink checkered sleeves, put it in her tired arms.
She grabs my artificial thigh, asks me if it is a tree.
Says out loud to everyone still standing there:
“Planes and birds have come to rescue all of us.”
Then a pause. “I love you”—without reasoning.

-- Janet I. Buck

The Doily

We walked by all the dusty cars,
scanned the junk, too hot to touch
in August heat. Cracked clay pots,
heaps of clothes still wearing mud
from last year’s raining soccer game,
a row of votives, all half-burned,
wicks too small to light again.

I saw a crumpled doily there,
picked it up and asked some girl
tanning in a broken chair: “What’s the price?”
“10 cents,” she said. “Oh never mind,
just take it. I am sick of it.
My grandma’s grandma made it
umpteen years ago. It’s worthless
and it gathers dust.”

I pressed a $50 bill inside her palm.
She quickly stuffed it in her bra.
Her face grew pale, the color of fresh coconut,
as if she’d seen her first gray corpse.
Riding home, I started scratching
out a poem on backs of two deposit slips,
told my husband, “Skip the bumps;
I cannot join my syllables.”

I saw a woman sitting near a crackling fire,
a shawl around her shoulder blades,
hooking threads in perfect ropes,
the neat design of snowflakes
in a winter storm.
I guessed the fabric started white,
like hides on some albino horse.

It turned a shade of ivory,
then neutered stains
from tea that left a china cup,
missed the saucer, landed there
across the finely woven strings.
This doily stood for centuries
once here and not retrievable.

-- Janet I. Buck

Cichlids Floating in Their Tank

Custard legs.
Walk off and on, but mostly off.
I cannot reach to floss my teeth.
My sister’s stopping by today.
I put my head between my legs—
leave it there,
add some color to my face—
a shade of white like sugar cubes.
Life is liver, not dessert,
but what’s the point of showing it.
I crutch into the living room.
Acei Cichlids, purple Discus, Angel Fish
float upside down or right side up
inside a lit aquarium.
Nothing left that moves with grace.

-- Janet I. Buck


So close—the intimacy of our kiss
is an illusion, an electric echo,

a chemical leap from skin to thought.
We cannot escape this passage, cannot

face the future. You are gone,
a storehouse of presence like a stitch

that cannot be the needle's weave
that pierces cloth. Still our lips meet

with perfect anticipation and brush
a landscape defying delay. We twine

despite our sense's failure. We are
the switch and not the light. We are

the point on the page and not the phrase,
those futile marks our minds design.

Only when we surrender, let
the past propel into the past,

only here, when we forgo
the chance of knowing the other's lips,

that pleasured pressure face to face,
only in that unmeasured moment

do we touch.

-- Bill Trudo

Morning Light, Lake Michigan

The world is copper
as if a sculptor finely etched these lines
where the waves rise along the lake,
and breakwaters jut, and piers,
their darker shades in this scene of metal.

An avenue blazes, unleashes an elemental fire
that eyes must follow to the horizon,
above which the sun sits,
like a small boy in regal dress,
on a ledge of clouds overlooking.

That child sees all in imagination.

-- Bill Trudo

Because We Fail, It Ought to Be

That’s why we go on listening.

— Susan Blackwell Ramsey, 
“The Best Part Of This Story Has Been Left Out”

Fast clouds before your eyes. White lilacs
at the back of my mind. Between,
coffee’s scent dances like the morning flurries.
An ant haphazardly searches the tile, then the sky.

Call it Saturday punk rock. Call it God.
Call it life, the universe, and everything
beyond your thought and feeling, and mine.

I struggle here to bury our ashy allusions,
to rise and not breathe the fallout, but it’s easier
to scatter dry rooftop snow when clouds
rush across the midday sun, leaving us

to embrace the difference.

-- Bill Trudo

Tommy is the Man

Tommy is the only man
for miles around who can knot a tie.
Old farmers come to town on Saturday

and wave from pickups with respect
when they see Tommy on the street
out for a walk in his black suit.

Tommy is the man they know
their families will call to knot
their ties and close their caskets.

-- Donal Mahoney


The Capitalist Way

It is easier for a camel to pass
through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich

to enter the kingdom of God,
Jesus told his disciples.
Centuries later Warren

an investor in America
heard about this and
asked Fu a manufacturer

in China to make
millions of 12-foot needles.
Then he asked Ahmad

a bedouin in Oman
to breed smaller camels.
Look for the IPO on Wall Street.

-- Donal Mahoney


Seeing is believing
smart people
often tell me but

no one ever told me
believing is seeing
except this blind lady

I help across the street
who taps her cane
and tells me

you’ll find out
when you leave Earth
and whirl among the planets

and soar behind
the sun and moon
on the way to your place

believing is seeing
someone some say
isn't there.

-- Donal Mahoney


My mummer’s garb,
My troubadour’s clothes,
I wear many masks
Through my life play.
Joy before the audience,
Sadness behind the curtains,
Peace with fellow actors,
Envy for those not in dialogue.
My masks change on the writer’s whim
As she script shifts.
Shakespeare said
All the world’s a stage,
But what if the veneer falls?
What if I stepped
From the glamor and glow
Beyond the red drapes?
In what realm might I dwell?

-- Katherine Givens


Cage me to a point where I get immune to myself
I don't need a camouflage of your bodily paradigm
but, the pinions of your soul to recollect myself for a while
just to devoid myself of everything, be it you or be it me.
Embrace me as a cool breeze;
snuff the scorching hate out of me.
Just be my medium so I can peek through the
small pores of disdain and fool myself once again.
I don't want you to conceal me inside the membrane of your shadow.
I just want you to permit me to silhouette against your soul.
It’s a promise that I won't enter the zones where the
radiant sparks of my inner demons walk
wearing a supercilious attire.
I'll limit myself to the finitude of your body,
won't approach your shroud of self-hood.
But, will you please allow me to peer
at the infra-canopy of yours?
I won't reveal the secrets of you,
The secrets of me which have entwined you
under their arms.
Those secrets which you just didn't share
to justify 'us' in our privy shell.
Ah! Reveal them for once.
I want them to be believed, to be clutched by me.
Don't be so hard on yourself.
Share your 'you(s)' with me and cuddle my 'me(s)'
so that we both can delve ourselves in the
candescent dungeons of our secrets;
Lets hypnotize the blind folds and warm the drizzles of the rain.
Lets blink the sun so it'll not eclipse,
and illuminate the lunar so it'll never reach doom.
Lets replenish the cavities of joys with dews of sensuality.
Lets change the world so our connections will be murmurs
But, first assure me that 'we' will always accompany me.
This 'we' can out pass all the ferocious waves
and gulp up the throbs of heart.
This 'we' is so potent but still, you say that we're impotent.
Stop being so futile, be my ductile.
Let me up thrust you in an ocean of my love
where solitude meets togetherness
and profanity nulls out the dirt of interrogation, reaching spirituality.
Be my divine, my sweetheart, my sunshine.
Make me hold you
and captivate your entity in a lullaby of my arms.
I'm stretching my arms to lock you softly
and reach the immensities of our love.
Comforts of coitus are being enveloped.
Now, lets encapsulate!

-- Fizza Abbas

Loving Her

He remembers loving her  
lost in an orchard
peaches, pears, apricots

falling on his head
every day
always out of breath

stunned, dizzy
seeking shelter
he never found

then hating her
the night she sent him
whirling into space

dodging stars, planets
no sign of life anywhere
wondering whether

he would ever hear
a songbird welcome spring
or kiss her again.

-- Donal Mahoney


Within these hollow cities
the pallor of shallow nights
when sleep isn’t enough
The loneliness of those
who were born to sing,
empty acolytes brave enough
to hear a seemingly whispered
presence, to wear a seemingly
invisible robe of gold
Those who have had time for
their mistakes and move on to
a grateful sense of sweetness,
the sweet embrace of the genuine,
because we are, after all, always
somehow someone that is needed.

-- ayaz daryl nielsen

Family Picnic

You’re not normal.
You never were.
Even in kindergarten
the nun had to call
your parents about
the way you ruined
worksheet after worksheet
putting spots on zebras.
You hated stripes.

Now miles into the jungle
of your dotage, why grouse
about family coming to town
wanting to go on a picnic
before the night game.
They're only being normal.
They have no problem with ants
peppering the potato salad.
Why not tell them yesterday

the doctor said you have gout
and you plan to watch the game
on TV in your recliner,
foot propped. Maybe you'll
see them in the stands while
the Cardinals pound the Cubs,
something as certain as
the Second Coming, something
the kids from Chicago already know.

-- Donal Mahoney

here is where we all begin again

right here
in this bar that we’ve been avoiding for months
there were so many good times
there have been hours lost in the drink
that i don’t mind getting back
on a saturday afternoon that’s too cold for late march
the last two seats at the bar
motown playing like a portent of good things to come
a half block of rubble two blocks away
two dead bodies that they haven’t found yet
but will have by the night
when we’re already home and working on the wine
right here
with seth at the end of the bar pouring pints
for the same people that were sitting statues the last time we left
here is where the pieces fall into place
and years can slip back into common, tangible moments
here is where the storm ends and the sun comes out
another new york city story
another tragedy reaching for the light
two pints of dark beer
and a basket of greasy popcorn
seth now pouring us two chilled vodka shots as payment
for talking our ears off about his ex-girlfriend
just like he did all summer
when we and cancer came in here incognito
to hear his tales of woe and to forget our own
before we forgot here
right fucking here
with the neon reflecting red off the faces
of young women too dumb on their cell phones to notice
that right here
right in this moment
is where we rise
where we all begin again

-- John Grochalski