Carousel of Marriage

Harry and Grace had a carousel
of marriage while it lasted.
There were arguments galore
and children by the score
or so the neighbors thought
as they counted kids
running across their lawns
causing divots to fly and
dogs to bark, a canine
tabernacle choir.

Fireworks on the Fourth
were peaceful in comparison.
The kids would light their
crackers in the yard while
Harry and Grace sat
and swirled vodka on ice
in plastic tumblers.

Harry and Grace had arguments
so loud the cops would come
but no one was ever arrested.
Grace would say Harry was wonderful
and Harry would say Grace was too.
But eventually Harry moved out
and Grace got a job doing hair.
Harry sent money for years
and the kids went to college.

Decades later a neighbor saw Harry
at the Mall and they had a nice chat.
Harry said he was happy his kids
got degrees and it was good Grace
had married the farrier and moved
to Wyoming where there were horses.
Not much work for a farrier in Brooklyn.
He had time to break up a marriage.

-- Donal Mahoney

Weeds and Blooms

Alice, a mother and housewife,
watches her husband, the doctor,

out in the garden on weekends
weeding with a speed and ferocity

she can't muster, her energy spent
taking care of the kids.

They never discuss his work
at the clinic where he digs

bulbs out of wombs, snuffing  
any chance for blooms.

-- Donal Mahoney

Remembering His Third Wife

Never speak ill of the dead,
his father always said,
and his father was a pastor
who preached from the pulpit.

That's why whenever
he thinks of his third wife,
and he does almost daily,
he never says anything bad.

Instead, he sends himself an email
and records for history yet another
evil deed she managed to execute  
during the years they had six kids.

Between kids she drove him nuts.
He never thought she'd die
and never hoped she would
because as he said in an email,

the Devil has his hands full.
Then he saw her death certificate
and, by golly, it was embossed
so it had to be good as gold.

Since he couldn't keep the original
he took it to the office
and made a giant photocopy.
Now he wants the right frame,

black as he claims her heart was.
So far he has sent himself 400 emails
about his bonfire life with her, a brief
prologue to the Hall of Fame injustices

he maintains he suffered simply
because so long ago he said "I do."
He isn't certain what she said.  
Perhaps it was "You're through!"

-- Donal Mahoney

Find Him

Millie on crutches
in the day room
tells Fred on
his walker
to find him.
It's important
says Millie
even if you're old
and can't walk.
Hire someone
to push your
toward him.
If you can't
get out of bed,
hire two people
to wheel
your gurney
toward him.
It's too late
if you hire
ten men to
carry your coffin
toward him.
Now is the time,
and for many
that's a problem.
They have
too little time
to find him.

-- Donal Mahoney


Let’s face it he’s an aging Chocolate Lab,
Overweight, domesticated to the point
That he will rarely go out without me,
Even in the backyard, doesn’t chase cats
Anymore or rabbits or even the squirrels
On the deck, sees them and walks by,
Even when they‘re close and temptingly
Run off, slowly enough to catch, he goes
By them to his favorite spot or two and
Does his business, then he barks at the door
As if he has been a long term exile, left
To a cold cruel world; but on our walks,
The one we take every day at the same
Time, he returns, though briefly, to being
A dog, instinctual, primal even, his nose
To the ground he charges from spot to
Spot, pauses for long periods as if deciding
As if he recognizes something of importance
Then trots on, stops again; it’s on these
Walks when his species, his breed come
Through, he becomes a drug sniffing dog,
One of those state police dogs in search
Of a criminal or someone lost in the woods,
Or one of those dogs after the earthquake
Looking for the living and the dead;
On our walks he plays, for a short time,
All the roles we assign dogs, plays them
Convincingly, but he tires quickly now,
Wants the shortcut home, tugs that way,
Ready to get back home to the comforts:
A bowl of water, a few dog-treats and
The family room’s couch with its dreams
Of chasing cats and finally catching them.

-- J. K. Durick


He must get
to the ocean every summer
the primeval waves
recharging his batteries so he
can continue the civilized struggle
against bills and banks
blighted lawns and broken cars.
Last year he was so desperate
to get into the water
he found himself swimming alone
except for the seals and sharks
his family on the shore
angry and yelling, frightened as hell
but he figures when his time is up
his time is up.

-- Michael Estabrook


When I was younger
I’d walk the train tracks beyond
where we lived pondering
the direction of my life
where have I been?
where am I going?
what am I doing or not doing?
what could I be doing better?
Even though I’m older now
and still have no answers
to these my life’s questions
I no longer tread the tracks
to ponder them
because those big trains appear silently
from around the bend awfully fast.

-- Michael Estabrook


My mother called today
wants to pay for her funeral
in advance “so you boys don’t have
to worry about it.”
But I’m not sure how
one does that, who do you pay
after all she may live
another 15 years so I say
just write me a check you can trust me
$20,000 ought to cover it.
Been a long time
since I’ve heard her laugh so hard.

-- Michael Estabrook

Getting On

Not to have been before,
symptomatic of having crossed over.
Impartial?  Callous?
Ah, so indifferent the calculus of time.
Young nothing could prepare one
but, now, no more come-hither days.
Instead, left-over shadowy shadows
as incognito as windowless facades.
Even the most distant of winds tends toward it.

-- Frank C. Praeger

Get Away

Get, get away from me
and though I piss, shit, spit
it will not leave.  
Some days I cry, some days I don't.
Whose sugar daddy am I?
Crimson puff of hope
without bed or joy.
I will not delay;
yes, participate,
not secretively, not darkly;
indifferent to the credible.
What will destroy destroys
as TV's ministry upholds
that old-time gospel.

-- Frank C. Praeger

Blue Jays and Adder's-tongue

Let me try again.
No matter how much self-regard I have,
it has not been easy, this strut,  
this combative whining, this living with myself.
Nonplussed by what I've done, by what I haven't done.
Frenzied, tranquil,
a variable demeanor.  
I am less then I am more.  I am two blue jays  
nesting in a chokecherry tree,  
an overripe smell from the garbage  
and I am not these,
nor the concern for pain in my upper torso.
I am as singular as each event.
I am my own dodo, extinguishing myself.
Splashes of sunlight turn me to something else
reckless as any other early green thing.
Crocus, adder's-tongue, dandelion,
I am all of these,
an old tree,  
a pitted, dead, branchless trunk.

-- Frank C. Praeger

It Had Not Been Planned

fathered -
to have been so embraced.
Surrogates self-delegated
and moments encountered reprieved.
A mother's cadenced staccato appeal.
A baby turns away.
The rest is shadows, twitches,
no neonatal  remains  
or tittle tattle refuge
deferential  to self;
a refusal of heaps,
ditto the tremulous mud-clogged soles  
soft-shuffling towards nowhere.

-- Frank C. Praeger

Monks in the Orchard Picking Peaches

Young monk
and old monk
in the orchard
picking peaches,
sunny and plump,
ready for canning.

Carrying bushels
to the wagon cart,
the young monk
asks the old monk
what to look out for
when growing old.

The old monk
pauses and says
not much.
Life stays the same
for the most part.
Monks work and pray
but an old monk
works slower and
prays faster.

But not to worry,
the old monk advises.
He admits he's
going deaf
but that's just
an inconvenience
since God uses
sign language.
Peaches like these
have no need to talk.

-- Donal Mahoney

Hope and Mr. Neery

I saw Mr. Neery,
ninety if a day,
wobbly on his walker

on his way to Sunday Mass.
He won't accept a ride,
insists on walking.

He's easy to spot,
a St. Louis Cardinals fan
in a bright red jacket

and a Cardinals cap
that halts a hurricane
of snowy hair.

It's his first Mass  
since burying his wife
a month ago when

someone lent him
a black suit to wear.
Now he's in red again,

a sign of hope,
even if he's bent over,
his humped back a

question mark growing.
But he's no different now
than he was before.

He still comes to Mass
like everyone else
looking for the answer

and to pray for the Cardinals
who play the Mets
at 1 o'clock this afternoon.

-- Donal Mahoney

Madman in Remission

Does he remember?
Jenny, how could he forget?
Thirty years ago you roared
into his office and raged
about your cousin's
decision to marry him.
He had never met you.
Your cousin had told him
you were in town
and suggested he
take you to lunch,
show you Chicago.
She didn't know
you were angry.
You were just Jenny,
her cousin, her playmate
from childhood
down on the farm.
You didn't want her
to marry anyone
and leave you the last
cousin still single,
something odd
in those days
when nobody knew.
You mocked him
and he couldn't respond
with people around.
But, Jenny,
you could have died
that day in his office.
Thirty years later,
he's still a madman
in remission.
No apology will do.

-- Donal Mahoney