Poetry by Donal Mahoney
I Know It When I See It
There are poems everywhere
but you have to find them,
a teacher told my class long ago.
I was a kid sitting at a desk,
cowlicks sprouting from my scalp,
no laptops available then, just paper
and a No. 2 pencil, sharply pointed.
I didn’t know what poetry was but I
had to find out. It might be on the test.
Many decades later I understand
what she meant. I still don't know
what poetry is but like pornography
I know it when I see it. I wish she had
come with me to places in my life
where I found poems hiding, in old
elevators stalled in housing projects
and on benches waiting for a bus
to go back home to sleep before
having to wait for a bus again.
There are indeed poems everywhere,
as my teacher said, and anyone
can find them anywhere if they look.
It’s nice to find them in a garden
or on a mountain top on a sunny day
but sometimes a poem appears when
you take the garbage out at night
and you see one sleeping in the alley.
Poems are everywhere and sometimes
one of them will break your heart.
On their honeymoon
he asked her not to sit down.
Might bruise the peaches.
Another Four Years
You can learn a lot,
both true and false,
in a dingy all-night diner
where old men gather
at a table in back
holding loud debates
for counter folk not
interested in their wisdom
amassed over many years.
The men say they don’t know
who’ll win the election
but they all agree
the voters must choose
between a devil they know
and a devil they don’t
then live in Hades
another four years.
Above Bob Gordon’s Bog
The bog above Bob Gordon’s bog
is where they found the body of
an older man floating like a canoe
among the lily pads. He was
covered with crustaceans.
Folks from town and towns
around came to see if he might be
one of theirs, perhaps someone
liquored up who went astray
and fell in the bog while traipsing.
But no one knew the victim so
undertaker Flynn had to bury him
behind Bob Gordon’s bog among
the other strangers buried there
holding up blank tombstones.
A Small World on a City Block
Old Sol hires young Abdul,
a refugee, to cut his grass and weed.
Saul tells his neighbor Old Paddy
young Abdul does a good job
and has a wife and three kids
and needs money for his family.
Sol says Abdul was an engineer
in Syria before the war but now
he has to improve his English
to find work as an engineer.
Till then he still has a family to feed.
Old Paddy understands and hires Abdul
to cut his grass and weed.
A month later Paddy tells Sol
they have to worry about Abdul:
His English is getting better.
Paddy’s says Abdul might find work.
If he does, who will shovel their snow?