Wednesday, February 15, 2017

13 Ways of Looking at Poetry By Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney has had work published in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, The National Catholic Reporter and other magazines. Some of his online work can be found at

13 Ways of Looking at Some Polyps

He asked and so I told him.
The “cancer” poems stem 
from cancer in the family. 
Daughter’s terminal. 
Son's a five-year survivor. 
Mother died at 59. 
I had 13 polyps, all benign, 
snipped a year ago. 
I go back next month
for another roto-rooter.

As one grows older,
neighbors, friends and folks
one doesn’t know 
die from it.
That’s life, isn’t it. 

One never knows 
but the question’s not
“Why me?” 
The question is
“Why not me?"

Think about it.
We’ll all pop something 
now or when, won’t we.

Donal Mahoney

A Knockout at the End

My parents were 
far from preachy. 
They went to church 
separately and I went
to the children’s service 
separately as well.

But as a family we
went to many Irish wakes 
that enabled me 
last New Year’s Day
to look death in the eye 
when my daughter died 
after a long fight to live.

I’m old enough now 
to listen for the bell signaling  
my own last round with death. 
Hard to believe I've made it this far. 
I may even lead on points 
but any bookie will tell you 
death by a knockout at the end.

Donal Mahoney

A School Bus Is Coming

On weekday mornings
on a quiet corner 
three moms with small   
sons and daughters
wait for a school bus 
they hope is coming

The children laugh 
play a game of tag
three moms are silent
three feet apart

One reads a book
another smokes
the other checks
her cell phone

The bus pulls up
the kids pile on
and rush to windows
to wave good-bye
the moms all wave 
as if in sync

The bus takes off  
makes its turn
three moms
walk home 
three feet apart
down the block
without a word

three moms
with children gone 
are free at last 
white, black and brown 

Donal Mahoney

Answer Me This, America

Took the wife 
to a pancake house
the other day. 
National franchise
good food 
fine reputation.

Skipped the pancakes
had bacon, eggs,
hash browns, toast
and coffee.
Wife went fancy,
had an omelette.

Grabbed the check
because the busboy 
started clearing 
the table early.
A young dervish
new to the job
swirling his cloth
for minimum wage.

Bothered me 
to realize he'd work
three hours and a skosh
to pay for the same 
breakfast, more
if he left a tip.

Reminded me 
something’s wrong
with our great nation,
how we do business.
Have both ears open.
Hoping for an answer.

Donal Mahoney

Coffee with Mr. Conscience

There are a lot of people like me 
neither rich nor poor, idling 
in the middle who have never wanted 
for anything in our lives.

We were reared by parents 
who fed us and sent us to school.
We graduated and found jobs 
and then moved on to better ones.
We raised families of our own.

We have pensions now
and can pay our bills.
We can buy a new recliner
when the old one breaks.

Which is why I hate to stop 
for coffee at Pete’s Diner
and find Mr. Conscience there 
sipping his and waiting to ask me
what I’ve done for the poor lately. 

He’s an old caseworker who 
worked in the projects until retirement.
He volunteers now with a group that 
caulks the gaps public grants don't cover. 

He never gives me a moment’s peace,
always after me to help a needy person.
He’ll take cash or a check, isn't fussy.
He’s Mr. Conscience and he drives me nuts. 
But I wouldn't have coffee with anyone else.

Donal Mahoney

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