Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Milkshake Brings Advice

I bring a milkshake every other week
to an old man in a nursing home,
a refugee from Germany who paid me  
50 cents to cut his grass when I was 
a kid in Chicago after WWII.

I couldn’t understand him then
and I can’t understand him now 
but 50 cents was big money 
in 1950, 10 candy bars,
10 popsicles or maybe 5 Cokes.
Or I could mix and match and trade 
Pete the Collector for a baseball card.

Now my old neighbor sits in bed
and swigs his milkshake as I tell him  
that I drove by his house the other day 
and the new owners have planted 
roses and lilies everywhere.
Every color imaginable.
A botanical garden in bloom.
He blinks at me, smiles
and takes a final swig. 

Because of the language problem
we never talk about anything
except the house he will never 
see again and then marvel that 
he will turn 100 soon, quite a feat.
He smiles at that as well.

But he doesn’t smile when I get up 
to leave and offers me advice 
in the thunder of his accent:
“Someone had better stop ISIS now.
When I was a kid in Berlin, no one
stopped Hitler the bastard then."

Donal Mahoney


Can You Hear Me in the Bunker, Leroy?

Can you hear me in the bunker, Leroy?
Sorry to hear ISIS has you in a funk.
But I’m delighted to know you’re not afraid

camouflaged in your bunker with an AK-47.
Now you’re telling me ISIS is the python 
wrapped around the equator 

squeezing our planet to death, 
that ISIS will end global warming
and take out Putin too, that both are

greater threats than the global warming
you’ve preached against since the Ice Age.
We wonder how you’ll vote on Election Day. 

Donal Mahoney


Body Bag

I'm on my way to Larry’s Place, 
a food pantry in the city. 
I park a block away because 

parking in front of Larry’s
isn’t wise even if one drives 
a clunker. My old Buick 

almost qualifies as that.
It’s getting up in years
but still able to get around. 

I’m wobbling in the middle of
two shopping bags of food 
my wife found in our pantry.

Someone at Larry’s Place can 
take it home and have a meal. 
If they have a home. Not all do. 

Certainly not the fellow sleeping 
on the bench outside Larry’s 
in a black body bag, the zipper 

slightly ajar so he can breathe.
Lots of people go in and out
but no one bothers him. 

I go in, drop off my bags and 
exchange pleasantries with Larry. 
He says business is too good. 

He says the guy in the body bag
is a new arrival from out of town,
suggests I have a chat with him.

His story is remarkable, Larry says.
On the way out I see the fellow 
in the body bag is sitting up.

I give him five bucks 
and he asks if I want to hear 
the story about his body bag. 

I say I’d like to but I’m rushed,
that I’ll be back tomorrow with
my notebook and camera and

I’ll pay him. After all, everyone 
has to make a living. Or find 
their food at Larry’s Place.

Donal Mahoney


Billionaire and Beggar

A billionaire and beggar
die on the same day,
miles apart. They
never knew each other
but that’s no matter.

The billionaire is buried
with pomp reflecting
wealth and stature.

The beggar’s lowered 
in a potter’s field.
Two workers shovel. 
One says a prayer. 

Years later 
a major quake tosses 
thousands of caskets. 

Popped lids confirm
a truth the billionaire
and beggar share.

Dust and bones 
in both their caskets.
Equality lies here.

Donal Mahoney


Merry-Go-Rounds on Main Street

There are Merry-Go-Rounds 
on Main Street all over America. 
They hide in storefronts offering 
payday loans to people who can’t 
borrow money anywhere else.
Their commercials air on TV.

A payday loan in my hometown has   
a widowed neighbor as a customer.
Retired and poor, she takes out a loan 
she can’t afford almost every week.
The interest mounts and she has 
to pay it before they’ll give her 

another loan to pay more bills. 
That’s how the Merry-Go-Rounds work. 
She has no other place to go for help 
except for her children who are unaware 
their mother goes to the Merry-Go-Round
because they buy things they can’t afford. 

The widow says she has to buy 
food and clothes for her grandchildren.
She’s been our neighbor for years but 
I had no idea until she told my wife
while crying over coffee. My wife 
told me we have to help this lady.

I told my wife if we help the widow 
we might end up at the Merry-Go-Round
ourselves. The Merry-Go-Round, I said, 
will help us the way they helped the widow.
"Not good,” she yelled and now she writes
to Congress about Merry-Go-Rounds instead.

Donal Mahoney








Donal Mahoney