Eye On Life Magazine

Lifestyle * Literary


I read a poem to my Mother
in the living room,
and she laughed,
thinking it was good;
and it made me
feel good,
even though I was
34 years old, and was
sitting in a chair
that once belonged
to my Grandfather
back before he died,
in a house that belonged
to my Father
back before he died.
But they both did die.
And so the blood
and the name
are both left with me.
And so I guess it’s ok
that my energy
is used
making my Mom laugh
at poems
that are
inspired by Bukowski
while we sit here
together on Thanksgiving.

-- Scott Thomas Outlar 


Adrenaline can save your soul
or your skin.

Adrenaline can cause a fight
or a flight, depending
on the nature of the Beast –
whether it is sweet
or filled with cancerous bile.

Adrenaline can spike your wine
with hormones from
the underworld,
ripping up through the soil,
snatching away all remnants of life.

Adrenaline can create new life,
putting courage into the vein,
pumping up the blood,
chasing away the fear –
driving it into the swine, then
into the sea,
down to the depths, drowning,
smothering, suffocating.

-- Scott Thomas Outlar

What I Want for Christmas

Can you give me
more neuron synapses
that create passion?
Can you give me
more fire, more suffering,
more love, more art?
Can you give me more truth?
Can you give me more poetry?
Can you give me more wine?
Can you give me success?
Can you give me less
of all the things
I do not need?
Can you give me more space,
more time, more awareness?
Can you give me more health,
more alertness, more mental acuity?
Can you give me my future,
up front, on loan, in the present?

-- Scott Thomas Outlar

Three Poems

when sight embraces
what a page can give
black within white
white within black
ardor of the embrace  
within poetic electric


summer mugginess
dragging my shadow
                 behind me


above the marsh
something birdish in the reeds
unseen wholesomeness

-- Ayaz Daryl Nielsen

Graveyard Poem

The distance, their time and place seem far away,
forever aloof, an afternoon’s drive – a conscious
decision, a trip I imagine more than take, but there
are times I’m drawn to it, to them, to who they were
and to what they have become.

My father’s hometown surrounds them now, holds
them there in all their remoteness – our family plot,
our name in bold chiseled out letters, as if it served
as a summary, an ironic pronouncement about our
allotment of ambition and grace.

There’s my father and brother, so long dead, I can’t
picture them anymore, or easily recall anything they
did worth mentioning – those little things we’d like
to remember about the dead, what they said or did,
those endearing things.

And my mother is there, a more recent death, more
dear for the extra years she spent, but just as far now,
another brick in the wall that seals us away from them
and what they were and what they became –
this dull blankness – eternal silence.

Are they off some place together? I picture them
as a family scene – father, mother, and son posing,
finally at peace with each other. Is there a house?
Schools for each of them? Do they dine together
and talk about their day?

Their distance, their time and place seem far away,
forever aloof, an afternoon’s drive – a conscious
decision to make the trip, a trip part of the way to
the undiscovered country – no travelers ever return
who go the full distance, like they have.

-- J. K. Durick 

Books of Poetry

I remember being young and attacking them
with a certain abandon, my careful disregard
for imposed order. Sometimes, I’d begin at
the end and page forward, reverse the order
the poet or publisher had wished on the work.

Other times, I’d go through and read all
the longer or shorter ones first and then go back
to wander through the rest, and I recall a time
I went through and read only first lines, closed
the book satisfied, and never went back for more.

Now I go at them conscious of the willful order
of things, like these. I move from the beginning
to the end, one poem to the next poem to the next,
stepping into openings, strolling the pages one
after another, the way they are presented, and finally

slowing for the ending, the inevitable I have learned to
accept as part of the book. It’s probably aging that’s
done it – I have learned about beginnings and middles
and ends, how one leads to the other without our help,
how order, even in small things, can be consoling.

-- J. K. Durick


The checkouts all seem to know me,
have developed a patience for my
fumbling and bungling, my slim
attempts at humor, my predictable
comments about the weather.

One likes to kid about my footwear,
The sandals I wear too late in the season,
my awkward winter boots, the ole
“shit kickers” I wear into the Spring.

The one who talked politics got demoted,
bags sometimes, sometimes sweeps up
after us, the proverbial clean-up in aisle
three, the roof that continues to leak.

I taught some of them, tried to get them
to write their way out of here, midweek,
mid-afternoon patiently ministering to
senior citizens, the under-employed, and
those few remaining housewives.  

The man ahead of me is trying to pay
with his insurance card, the one behind
me keeps jiggling the controls of his
motorized shopping cart.

I have thirteen items in the express line.
It is just two-thirty in the afternoon.
This is the best moment of our day.

- J. K. Durick 

When Carbon Paper Was King

All the rest are dead
except for Joe and Ed,
both ill and long retired.

They linger miles apart,
keep in touch by email,
a tool colleagues didn’t have

when they and Joe and Ed
used telephones and typewriters
to get a magazine out on time,

their hands always in a dither
with carbon paper, paste pots,
pica sticks and galleys.

Every month the magazine
came out on time, glistening.
Now many years retired,

Joe and Ed wonder by email,
Gosh and Golly Gee, how
did they do it without computers.

Colleagues have no answer.
Except for Joe and Ed
all the rest are dead.

-- Donal Mahoney

The Canyon Dwellers

There’s this canyon
between two cliffs
and Tim Boyd has a foot
planted on each cliff.
He’s spread-eagled
but very steady.

He's been stretched
over the canyon since
he got back from Iraq.
After he took his position,
he thought someone
would eventually look up.

There are others
spread over the canyon
in front of Tim.
They’ve been there
since Viet Nam and
getting a bit wobbly.

In back of Tim
are the new arrivals
spread-eagled as well.
They’re fresh from
Afghanistan and they're
getting their feet set.

The rest of us below
have jobs and are busy
with families and lives.
When a canyon dweller falls
and makes a terrible mess,
we find the time to look up.

-- Donal Mahoney

A Song in Her Valley

When he saw her in heels
he said she’s the one so
he said his “I do,” never to
climb a different mountain.

That night he began  
at her ankles, climbed
seams in her stockings,
moved over her hips

and circled her waist,
strolled up her spine and
stood on her shoulders,
took a deep breath and

rappelled to the smile
he saw on her breasts.
Many years later his life
is a song in her valley.

-- Donal Mahoney

Another Spring

I heard from Harold
this morning, someone
older than I am, the two of us
in winter staring at another spring

someone I haven’t seen in 50 years,
side by side in cubicles again
making plans for lives
that might have been

waiting for the quitting bell
to say it’s 5 o’clock, time
to dunk our time cards,
hop the trolley and go home.

-- Donal Mahoney


Professor Burns is interested
in macro issues only,
no minutiae for him.

So he asks students
on the first day of class why
water swirls counterclockwise

when you flush a toilet
anywhere in America
and to determine as well

by midterm if the water swirls
clockwise elsewhere in the world.
Or if the counterclockwise swirl

is uniform all over the planet.
Extra credit will be given
to the student who proves

the counterclockwise swirl is
a conspiracy of plumbers.
The final exam, he says, is

an essay question asking if ISIS
will reverse the swirl clockwise
when it takes over the world.

-- Donal Mahoney

The Beauty of the Upper Peninsula

No, please don't tell me you're even
going to attempt it. You're leaning
out of a balcony and reaching for death.
There are some things that can't be
hammered into poems, some colors
that don't even exist to your eye,
the ultras and infras. You can't even
nail your truck in a villanelle. A sonnet
has never gotten you kissed. Your haiku
is banned in China. But there it is,
the clouds so ripe that you figure
you might as well interrupt the moment
for words, hack out an attempt at God,
the theologian ripping up pages, angry
that he can't capture unicorns in her sleep.

-- Ron Riekki

Profit and Loss

Either way, the gist is
profits for some,
losses for others

but what a difference
the Pill has made
in the lives of women

and what a difference
the new Pill will make
in the lives of men.

The new Pill will mean
profits for those making
pills and losses for

those making diapers
as people decide
more is less.

-- Donal Mahoney

Like Father Like

Strapped to his bed
in the nursing home,
he tells every nurse
who comes in
and tightens his straps
his trouble started

in first grade when
he'd make a mistake
reciting the alphabet
in the kitchen for Mother
while Father in the parlor
waited for an error

and then dragged him
down the basement
and made him stand
in a tub of hot coals
plucked from the furnace
until he was able  

to recite his letters
without error and then
Father would take him
upstairs to Mother who
put salve on his feet
so he could recite

his letters all over again,
this time without mistake
which Father pointed out,
decades later in the same
nursing home, was proof
his boy had learned a lesson.

-- Donal Mahoney



It's pressed inside the leaves of a book -
a collection of Swinburne's poetry.
It's safe there.
Nobody ever reads Swinburne.
It's brown for most of its journey
though one end is slightly darker
where it' s been uprooted from the head
and the other, lighter,
from doing the sun's business.
And it will never gray,
unlike its later progeny.

Silly romantic notion,
keeping that thread of hair.
Is there anything more
unrepresentative of
your moods, your looks, your nature?
Besides, to an outsider,
it could be from a dog,
a horse, another's comb.
It has only me for witness.
And Swinburne too of course -
though he' d prefer it be
a tress of Christina Rossetti’s.

So I keep my deceptive strand,
this thin deluded measure.
Pressed between roundels,
it's a loving trespass in another's poetry.
Plucked from your shoulder,
already beyond you,
and yet it captures, captivates.
I open to the page,
stare at it from time to time.
Never so near has Swinburne come
to being read.

-- John Grey


Hear that?
The hum of wings
striking the skin of the wind.

Your ears struggle against
the usual suburban symphony.
Yes, you can just about hear.
Your eyes brighten,
make a case
for the novelty of the sound.

Makes me wonder if I ever hear you -
your breath as it falls easy
atop mine.
No I don't hear it,
I breathe it
and that's as it should be.

So what have we out there?
A hummingbird
eager for a last drink before dusk?
A moth
out of its green closet,
awake to the open air?

A breath?
Is there other than this one?

-- John Grey


How high I climb,
looking down, through patches in the clouds, at the valley below.
No wind,
the air too fragile
to risk moving.

At the behest of puffy whiteness,
imagery shifts endlessly,
refuses to settle on a shape,
a color, much less a conclusion.

Did a scarp
just lift me on its shoulders?
Did the sun hold and gold me gently
as a lock of mother's hair?

The hymn-speak of the mind
leaves the body without an explanation.
The planet's found a way to dream.
Greetings from inside its head.

-- John Grey