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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Donal Mahoney, Poetry, and Finches

Donal Mahoney has led a life that has had a number of obsessions but he has never been without food and shelter. Besides working as an editor and writer he has worked as a caseworker with the poor and as a fundraiser for a charity, work that led to the poems that appear here. Those jobs taught him how fortunate his life has been on the material side. But finding the right obsessions emotionally has always been a challenge. Breeding rare Australian finches In Chicago and in rural Missouri, as shown in the photograph, was a harmless obsession that lasted 12 years. Two of his sons cleaned 40 cages a week to help them get through college. They never want to see an Australian finch again.

Donal Mahoney and finches


Long Red Leash

The scruffy old man
and his white poodle
on a long red leash
were neighborhood icons
years ago down at the corner
where children laughed
and petted the dog while
waiting for the school bus.

Every afternoon
when the bus came back
to drop them off
the scruffy old man
and his poodle were there
and the kids would
laugh and take turns
petting the dog again.

Those children grew up
and went away.
The ones who wait
for the school bus today
have never seen
the white poodle
on the long red leash.

They don’t know the dog
got out of its yard one day
when the scruffy old man
didn't lock his gate.

No wonder the children
find it strange to see
a scruffy old man
bent over and
talking to himself
in a language
they can't understand
walking a long red leash.


Donal Mahoney


Keeping His Dignity

A poor man comes to the door
after the storm last winter and

asks if he can have something
to eat if he shovels the walk.

You say forget about the snow.
How about ham sandwiches

on rye bread and he says fine.
You ask if he wants mustard.

He says yes if it’s Grey Poupon,
the only mustard he eats.


Donal Mahoney


They Call It Euthanasia

We took a feral cat
we'd been feeding to the vet
when it stopped eating.

It was lying on the deck
too weak to object.
The vet said tests

would cost $400
to figure out the problem.
Or we could euthanize the cat.

That would cost less.
It was up to us, he said.
I asked him if old and sick

cats and dogs were still
euthanized with gas
and he said no.

It’s by injection now.
They don’t feel a thing.
Perhaps that will help

if the Court decides
some day to cull
the herd of old folks.


Donal Mahoney

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