Sunday, June 5, 2016

Memorial Day Poems From Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney is neither hawk nor dove. But he was in fourth grade when the older guys in his neighborhood went off to WWII and he was a sophomore in high school when some of the others left for Korea. So whenever Memorial Day rolls around, he remembers those who came back to the neighborhood and those who didn’t. They didn’t use the acronym PTSD back then. But he saw veterans who suffered from it long afterward. He can never forget the vet remembered in the first poem. The one in the second poem will now take a few bucks for doing odd jobs. The one in the third poem, a composite of a couple of veterans, he tries hard not to remember. 

Remembering a War We Tend to Forget  

I will never forget him
but I can’t remember his name
it’s been so long ago.
Maybe I never knew it. 

But I think of him on days
America celebrates its veterans—
Memorial Day, July 4th,
Veterans Day, D-Day.
The wars are all remembered 
but not so much this one.

He was Billy's big brother
and more than 60 years ago
Billy and the rest of us
were in 8th grade watching
him climb a ladder
and hammer a hoop 
on the roof of a garage
so we could play ball
while he went to Korea. 

I saw him again when he 
came back from Korea.
He was walking in circles 
in the family’s backyard 
smoking Pall Malls,
one after another, talking 
to no one we could see.

We were practicing at 
the hoop he nailed up 
before he went to Korea.
We were seniors
in high school then 
and had to be ready. 
We practiced all summer
for the season ahead.

Donal Mahoney

A Good Neighbor

Cookies for George, 
40 years back from Viet Nam,
are the only payment
the man will accept  
to mow your lawn,
rake your leaves,
shovel your snow.

He sleeps behind 
his brother's house
above the garage.
Every two weeks
he shaves and bathes. 
His brother takes him 
to the Veterans Hospital. 

George has cancer again
40 years after Agent Orange.
But he'll mow your lawn,
rake your leaves
and shovel your snow 
for nothing less than
cookies for George.

Donal Mahoney

Monsanto's Gift to War

Smitty isn't Schulte.
He doesn't drive a Cadillac 
and doesn't hit his wife 
often any more.
Schulte, on the other hand,
drives a Cadillac
and hits his wife 
usually on weekends
for no good reason.
He's been doing that for 
more than 40 years
ever since the boys
came home from Viet Nam

not knowing they had been
touched by Agent Orange,
Monsanto's gift to war.
They had a double wedding with 
girls they liked in high school. 
Smitty says therapy
has helped a little.
He hasn't struck his 
second wife in years.
But Schulte hasn't changed. 
The police have come again 
tonight, sirens blaring, 
gumball lights swirling.

Two big officers, 
matched like bookends,
march Schulte out in cuffs. 
He's cursing at his wife 
who's in a nightgown 
bawling on the porch
as if Schulte's going 
back to Nam again.
Smitty swears Schulte 
never left the paddies, that 
he's still knee-deep in water 
bright with Agent Orange,
Monsanto's gift to war. 


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