Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Poetry By Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney’s first job decades ago was as a caseworker in the Cabrini Green Housing Project in Chicago. He worked with 458 families in two high rise buildings for two years. Decades later he finally retired after 10 years as a professional beggar for an urban charity. In between those two jobs, he worked as an editor and writer for various print publications. He has seen “cultural norms” from the inside and from the outside and nothing much has changed, in his opinion, since the assassination of JFK

Atomic Clocks

Years ago my wife 
bought three wall clocks,
atomic clocks they’re called.
They require no batteries
and you don’t plug them in.
They do everything 
automatically, as many 
of you know. 

They're synchronized
with the U.S. Atomic Clock
in Boulder, Colorado,
our country’s official clock.
It regulates time  
on clocks, computers 
and other devices.

Two of our atomic clocks
are running well but 
the one has problems.
For two days its hands
have been spinning 
out of control 
like the propeller 
on a helicopter piloted 
by Peter Sellers.

I told my wife we must
get rid of the spinning clock
and the others because 
someone may have hacked 
Big Brother Clock in Colorado 
and installed listening devices.
All these years, they may have 
recorded my phone conversations 
with my contact in Liechtenstein.

I don’t want anyone to know
I am a spy for Liechtenstein
and paid well for my efforts.
I’d rather everyone know
I lead our Block Watch team
and report incidents that look
threatening to our safety.
I play both sides of the fence,
jumping back and forth.
My neighbors jump with me.
We’re Independents.

Doorman in a Foreign Land

Forty years Leroy was a doorman 
at a nice hotel in a big city.
He was a country boy the day 
he got the job because he was tall  
and the uniform fit, the manager said.

He was still a country boy the day 
he retired because he was too old,
the new manager somewhat said.
He got a small pension, less than 
social security, but he and his wife
figured they’d make do. 

Leroy mailed snapshots of himself 
in livery to his brother Darryl 
raising hogs on the family farm.
After seeing Leroy in uniform, 
Darryl called him the General.

The brothers made a living, each 
in his own way, one as a doorman 
in a foreign land, the other butchering
hogs in his native country. 

Hogs may be hogs, Darryl would say
every time the General would call
to have jowl and pigs’ feet sent to him. 
People have to eat, Darryl would say, 
but don’t have to stay in no fancy hotel. 

Aren’t Native to America

Like the poor 
the sparrows we 
will always have with us,
my neighbor lady tells me
as she feeds the birds 
in her backyard
on a little table.

She says sparrows
are the rabble of 
the bird world
as bad as starlings.

The sparrows come
in hordes she says 
until the starlings arrive
and scatter them.
Then the starlings
bump each other
out of the way.

Birds like these  
make it impossible
she says
for the pretty birds
the cardinals and jays
chickadees and juncos
to visit her buffet.

She points out 
sparrows and starlings
aren’t native to America.
They’re stowaways that
came here long ago
on ships from 
the Old World.

She says America has 
a problem like that now 
but it’s not birds 
we have to worry about
and that’s why 
the next election 
is so important.
I look her in the eye 
and say I agree.

Donal Mahoney

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