Friday, June 5, 2015

Signs in Windows

In 1920 he came on a boat 
from Ireland and found
his way through Ellis Island.

He found a room 
in a boarding house
catering to his kind and

went looking for a job
but found instead signs
in windows saying 

“No Irish Need Apply.
A cemetery asked him to
dig graves and lower the dead.

In America today
there are no signs like that.
Black and brown 

apply and whites 
sometimes hire them.
My father was white.

But in 1920 his brogue
was a long rope that
almost lynched him. 


Donal Mahoney

Before Michael Brown and Freddie Gray

Who celebrates 
the birthday of a tree?
Birds and squirrels, perhaps,
but not Michael Brown 
and not Freddie Gray
and not Rufus Jackson, who was
hung from a weeping willow in 1863.

Rufus stole an apple pie
cooling on a window sill,
a farmer’s wife said
She told her husband about it 
when he came in from threshing.
An uncle found Rufus
and cut him from the tree.  

His family buried him 
behind a willow not too far 
from a barn in Mississippi 
where two men took Emmitt Till, 
a boy from the city, in 1958. 
Both men said Emmitt had
whistled at a white man’s wife. 

The two men beat Emmitt, 
gouged an eye out, shot him 
in the head, tossed his body 
in the Tallahatchie River, not far 
from the grave of Rufus Jackson,
said to have stolen an apple pie, then 
hung from a weeping willow in 1863.


Donal Mahoney


It’s Not for the Usher to Ask

Many churches today 
have a food pantry that never
had a pantry before.

I attend a church like that.
Some folks are well-fixed, 
others poor, most betwixt.

Some had money before
but not enough now to pay 
the mortgage and then buy food

so the pantry helps them
the same way it helps clients
it has helped for years.

Some folks in the pews quietly
support the pantry with 
checks and canned goods

enabling the nouveau poor
to stand in line with the 
forever poor on Mondays. 

A neighborhood baker slips 
into the church Sunday mornings
just prior to the end of service

and quietly stacks his trays
of unsold bread in the dark foyer. 
He says nothing and disappears.

No one seems to know
who he is but the hungry
love his bread and word

of its excellence has reached
the woman who leaves church early
and always grabs two loaves

of French baguettes and is
out in the parking lot long
before anyone else and

drives off in a red Mercedes.
Perhaps she’s on unemployment, 
low on food stamps or is still

making payments on the car.
It’s not for the usher to ask.
I simply hold the door. 

Donal Mahoney