Wednesday, September 30, 2015

novice

i
think i’m so out of practice
can’t help watching you
blonde hair
mustard coat
cross-legged on the bookstore floor
reading history books
pizza-breathed and beer burped
i’m trying to calculate the months
over two years
and one mary bermiano at least
since i’ve been out
with someone new
but we know each other cassandra, don’t we?
i have a mental journal
of looks
of little laughs at the jobs
of riding out to mary’s on saturday nights
for the same depression
the same arguments
on mary’s bed thinking about you
as her hypochondria mother
shoves pills down her throat
the endless doctor’s appointments
i told you about, cassandra
riding home half-asleep with autumn windows down
so i don’t wreck the car
wreck the car over mary
thinking i ain’t gonna work on mary’s farm no more
and here were are in the pizza joint
in the movie theater in the bookstore
in your kitchen that’s bigger than my home
in your living room looking at old photos
i twirl around
your white pillar porch
three little stars in the sky
love the way your perfume lingers in the night
mixing with your marlboros
hanging on faintly in my car
as i marvin gaye
my way back to the duplex suburbs
wide awake
in awe.


sirens

sandy comes to the door
hair wet in something tattered
mutters to calvin about buying a watch
we’re early by forty minutes
one of those nights where calvin and i
have nothing to say to each other
and all i can think as sandy pounds back upstairs
is that she gave colby bad head years ago
after his senior prom
where is colby tonight?
down in maryland down in maryland
all he did was die
calvin leaves me alone with sandy’s fiancĂ©, ray
while he calls in reinforcements for the night
ah, the socialist, ray says
he and i don’t like each other
last time i was here he started in on his whole
white-bread-clean-cut-closet-bigot-conservative-extremist routine
to try and get a rise out of me
so i started in on my
gop-abortion-war-mongering-classist-liberal-extremist rhetoric
but all i could do was sit there sober
wondering if sandy gave him bad head too
ray has no beer for me tonight as well
his fridge as dry as some southern towns
i’m holding one joint in my camel lights pack for later
but might go onto windy forbes avenue
and smoke it now
calvin on the phone with stevetomgeorge
sandy pounding upstairs on her own clock
ray says, you fellas haven’t been drinking tonight already?
strolls like jay gatsby around the place
no old sport, i tell him
but i’m a few up and so is calvin
so i trip stagger down steps
in the car to wherever we play it drunk to scare ray
can feel him clutching my headrest
legs navigating calvin’s backseat full of
coats papers tapes cds bowling balls mickey d wrappers
the passenger seat goes off its hinges again
me sliding back and forth ray sliding yelling
sandy telling calvin to stop the goddamned car
we laugh and tell them it was all a joke
everything except the car seat, old sport, i say
what are we doing tonight? i think
breaking apostolistic bread with these wet blankets
in a strip district primanti bros
with so much to do in the city?
calvin and his mundane loyalties
his jesus christ cyo friendships
his coleslaw and french fries on the side
ray says to me, you don’t believe in god do you?
of course he does, calvin says answering
halfway through my second jack daniels and ginger ale
this joint burning a hole in my pocket
ray finger-waving homosexuals downfall of america
calvin and i leave those lovebird christ children
go outside into the night of the city of my birth
this city of bridges and rivers and holy immaculate disappointments
get high down an alleyway
as women saunter in high heeled majesty
toward rosebud or the metropol
if cassandra is in there tonight
i just know i’m gonna play her fool
stevetomgeorge arrive and we end up in north hills
kangaroo’s bar tv pool tables dart boards
frat boys and frat girls crawling in expensive flannel
women walking around like hooter girls
with neon liquor in test tubes
saying, sex on the beach anyone?
to hootie and the blowfish national anthems
i pump ten bucks into the jukebox
play the whole of oasis (what’s the story) morning glory?
pump pint after pint of buck-fifty honey browns in my stomach
as tom tells the table he’s in love with colleen
as calvin tells the table he’s in love with amanda
as ray and sandy are in love with each other and god
and america and newt gingrich and bad head
as everyone’s in love
colby in maryland in love with a teenager
as i got the cassandraportiamarilyntombstone blues
as steve says, wonderwall? who in the hell played this shit?
as ray and sandy join hands and pray over
a bucket full of chicken wings and fries
i stumble into the men’s room singing
down in kangaroo’s down in kangaroo’s
all i did was die.


replacement umbrella blues

wednesday night i sit
in dead rosebud café
nursing budweiser specials
calvin waiting on a woman
it’s so hard for calvin to meet anyone
worse than me he keeps falling in love
with the girls he works with
they keep falling in love with everyone else
i realize i’m still wet because the rain pissed on me
the umbrella portia gave me
to replace mine a month after the fact
fell apart on craig street
so i was soaked all the way through
pittsburgh has been a monsoon since march
and i should’ve called portia on monday
she left tuesday now it’s wednesday
and calvin keeps checking his watch
i think i still haven’t called marilyn
when did i become someone
with so many people that i had to call?
calvin says, so what’s going on?
as if we haven’t seen each other in weeks
as if we hadn’t been here in rosebud not four days before
picking each other up off the floor
of another beer-drunk saturday night
i should tell him my grandmother is dying
cancer here cancer there cancer everywhere
she has no hair now and can hardly get food down
the fiery whiskey throat of her life going out
but calvin takes grandmothers hard
like he takes women and falling in love
and i don’t think this woman is showing up
so i tell him the fucking umbrella died on me
he shakes his head like it’s this grave
understanding between us
umbrellas die like grandmothers die
like romance dies and phone call never get made
i finish my beer and order another round
get up from the bar to piss
as calvin leans back to check the front door
i tell myself i’ll write portia a letter explaining everything
i’ll tell her the umbrella works like a charm.



the ghost of pennoak manor drive

marilyn finally calls
on this night of all nights
says, you sound like you’re
in the middle of the street
five cop cars racing up
my little dead end block
i tell her i don’t know what’s going on
marilyn says, anyway i heard you called
four times, i think, while she was in jersey
as cop cars surround my neighbor’s house
marilyn back from two weeks in jersey
where she roamed her kid streets
and dropped her prudish act
to drink in bars with old friends
sweet lemony sugar drinks, she says
cops going up the neighbor’s driveway
to murder screams tv blasts electric guitar chords
and the sound of a motorcycle revving in a garage
are you sure you’re not outside, marilyn says
it’s my neighbor, jim, i tell her, and the cops
she says, i thought about you drinking those drinks
and wouldn’t you know it?
but on the plane ride back to pittsburgh
i got stuck sitting next to some christian fundamentalist
who kept asking me what i’d say
agnostically, of course, if god to spoke to me
impossible, i say
but not to marilyn to cops frog marching
crater-faced restless jim down his driveway
pressed up against the white car swirling blue/red lights
marilyn says, that’s what i told him
she says, you know i already feel comfortable talking to you
and i laugh
thinking she feels comfortable talking to me?
comfortable in my humorous madness restless heart
that wants to just finally get on a greyhound bus
and shoot straight to d.c. with colby and hit bars
drink the same sugar lemony drinks and make love words
to d.c. girls who don’t know me from anything
girls i’ll never have to muster the courage to see again
or have to call four times while they’re in jersey
this is what marilyn is comfortable with?
what’s happening? she says
i mean with your neighbor
they’re arresting jim letting jim go, i think
but the cops stick around
marilyn says, so are we getting together or what?
late may i’ve been at this with her for a month
to no success
yaass, yaass, i neal cassidy into the phone
groucho slouch around my room
looking for a paper and a pen to transcribe our fate
look out the window
jim whose crazed antics are legend on this street
jim who begged his wife to knife him last fourth of july
jim rumored to mentally torture his family
jim rumored to have killed his girlfriend’s dog
back in the sixties
jim the great satan shroud of pennoak manor drive
dressed year round in camouflage 
ghost white skin and bones
screaming
i’m sorry
i’m sorry
into the black night
while his wife and kids cry on the porch
while the cops slouchwatch against their doors
while the cops pushpullshove him into the backseat
and marilyn says, it sure sounds crazy
where you live.


in reverse

before
julie gave me a last little wave
from the backseat
and i knew i wouldn’t call her tomorrow
before i fell onto the pavement
rainy cul-de-sac and told tom i was all right
so they drove away
before i’d been in tom’s car
colleen telling us we should get a room
before i’d been backseat kissing julie
while tom swerved the car trying
to get us to stop
before she’d been making those eyes at me
before she’d burped beer but i didn’t mind
before i lit us cigarettes
even though tom didn’t want anyone
smoking in his car
before we’d tumbled down the steps
of the bar and into the humid summer rain
before we did those last shots of house vodka
before julie came back from the bathroom
with that look in her eyes
that i understood and decided everything
before i sat down and wondered
what in the fuck i was doing with this
before i stood there and thought
about how she had a two and a half year old at home
before some dude told me that he’d seen julie
making out with at least two other guys
before julie kissed her finger put it to my lips
and shook that ass to the bathroom
before we’d been on the dancefloor making out
before i’d spent twenty minutes trying to look for her
because tom and colleen wanted to leave the bar
because i wanted to find her for myself
before she’d been sprawled over a pool table
her ass spread nearly across the room and then gone
before i’d seen her kiss those two guys
one to the other and back again to both
and figured fuck this too
before tom said, julie likes everyone when she drinks
and i thought, thanks dude
before colleen told me
that she thinks julie likes me
as i watched her laugh and clap and shake
make eyes toward me on the dance floor
before julie said, fuck this dull shit
i’m going to dance
and then got up stumbled on one heel
before she and i drank a row of vodka shots
and chased them with a pint of beer
before she said, you still have my number, right?
to get me to stop talking about whatever
before tom said to me on the way in
don’t get any ideas when she starts getting drunk
as if i were that kind of guy
before when we were in tom’s car
and i could tell julie had already been drinking
thinking maybe i’d get lucky tonight after all
before when she got teary eyed talking about her kid
and i thought, good christ
before when she was walking down her steps
and i said to tom, what kid? who cares about a kid?
before while tom was honking his horn
because julie kept us waiting
and colleen said, even though you’re a cop
it doesn’t mean you always have to act like an asshole
before as i thought about every other woman
i’d beatified with no regards to their reality
before when we were on the way to get julie
and the night seemed fresh
and the air seemed clear
and there was no hint of rain
no hint of intrigue no hint of anything
just me thinking a girl
another chance with a girl
like it was some holy event
before
another night
came crashing down
to earth.

John Grochalski

Friday, September 11, 2015

 Sorrow
 
It’s what we pay, the ticket we buy to enter
the time we spend here.
 
It’s the face we return to in the mirror,
our constant friend.
 
It’s the dust of every day that never goes away,
accumulates, just turn our backs, there’s more.
 
It’s the ball the dog returns regardless of
how many times we throw it or, how far.
 
It’s the buzz, the hum we hear in back
of it all, a national pastime, an anthem of sorts .
 
It’s what we buy to lug home, paper or plastic
bags full, fresh and frozen, canned or dried,
 
still warm from baker’s oven, or  butcher’s blade,
ready to serve, and then it’s served..
 
Now here’s some more over here I almost forgot.


    Kicking Leaves   
 
The leaves have lost their green,
Their promises of bud
Of bloom or blight
 
They have added some color
And variety and contour, but
 
The leaves have lost their trees,
Now stretch out on lawns,
Lay claim to their moment.
 
They tumble and toss themselves,
Kick and crumble, crackle under foot.
 
The leaves remind us, whisper
About our beginnings and endings,
 
They remind us now of the feel
Of inside places, of a warmth
They will never feel again.
 
The leaves are losing their hold
On us, like this they drop down
Into time and are going, blowing,
 
Gone.


 
 
           Art for Art’s Sake
 
When he finally rented the studio,
Bought into the idea of space and
Time, he brought in light and color,
An easel or two, brushes and canvas,
Enough of the pre-art supplies to feel
The stir of it, inspiration, motivation;
 
He began with the abstracts that had
Been in his head for years, shapes
Swirling about, muted colors drifting
One into another, till he tired of trying
To name them, to anchor them enough
To show, so he brought in models,
Inexpensive models: the homeless guy
From the corner posed for a sandwich
And a pint; a woman from up the block
Said she’d pose, then never showed up,
So painted what he imagined about her,
Her awkward beauty, a pose she held for
Hours in his head, then on a canvas;
 
Soon he was painting every day, everything
He imagined, everything he saw came to life,
Shape, pattern, perspective, it all flowed
From his brush, canvas after canvas;
The studio filled up, his art piled up in
Corners and cabinets full, if anyone ever
Came in they’d trip and trouble him
About it all; he sent a few out, showed them
At first, but since they all came back
He kept them, tried to arrange them
But order never worked, became strays;
 
Art can be like that, it fills his space and
Time, closes in on him, so many shapes,
So much color, he buries himself in it
And knows that that’s all that will ever be.
 
J.K. Durick
Newberry Library, Chicago

Despite the digital holocaust
of computers and cell phones,

Newberry Library remains 
the Vatican of books 

with the right sounds
a cough now and then,

a page turning, while out 
on the street a beggar 

asks for spare change. 
Workers with none walk away.

Donal Mahoney


The World in the Year 3000

There are pockets 
of them everywhere,
quiet and discreet.

Usually they meet 
once a week
in private homes

in basements 
some call catacombs.
Depending on the group

a minister will preach,
a priest say Mass
a rabbi teach.

Elsewhere you will find
a mosque on almost
every street.

Donal Mahoney


Con Man Willy

Willy’s old.
Still a con man
but bewildered now.

Spent his life
screwing people,
rich and poor alike.

Never discriminated.
Made millions 
he tucked away

in stocks and bonds
and foreign banks.
A few gold bars

under the mattress
for emergencies.
He’s dying now, 

a shrill curse 
his final gasp.
No plea for mercy.

One might think
death would be 
a con man’s finest hour, 

a last chance to cut
the biggest deal.
But Willy loves Sinatra.

He's proud as hell
he’s done it 
his way.

Donal Mahoney


Political Year


We often fall short,
say the dwarfs.
It’s the way we are.

Don’t make a big deal
of it, say the giants.
Happens to us too.

Can’t see the problem,
say the blind.
What do you mean?

Please repeat that,
say the deaf.
Get to the point.

Have nothing to add,
say the mute.
Can't comment.

But each candidate
brings answers for all
every four years.

Donal Mahoney

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

FORGER     [Stefanie Bennett]
 
 
I have created this silence
Disguised
As a poem
For all those
                    Who have
Everything but
A poem
And silence.
Almost Home

Rolling down the highway
from Chicago to the farm
Bill the barber’s almost home. 

The ride is smooth until
his entourage leaves the highway 
and draws closer to the farm.

There the road gets bumpy 
as the hearse takes on Dead Man's curve
and goes past the farm to the cemetery.

The road is hostage to the weather, 
cattle, plows and happy kids with 
cane poles heading for the river

to hook the big one Bill missed
on his occasional vacations
Bill loved that farm as a boy 

but he had to make a living. 
He cut hair for 50 years 
and now he’s almost home.


Donal Mahoney


A Whole Lot Cheaper

for Jimmy Swaggart

It’s not easy watching preachers
howling on television
morning, noon and night
claiming the End is near

telling viewers they have time 
to send money before the Rapture 
takes them up into the air 
to be with God forever. 

One famed preacher is 80 now 
explaining the Message of the Cross
as he has always understood it.
Every month he holds a telethon

and donors send him millions 
to keep his station on the air
around the world day and night
so he can spread the Good News.

Not a cent, he says, ever goes to him
or his choir or his fellow preachers.
But if he needs $50 million a year 
to spread the Message of the Cross 

as the only way to heaven, why not 
save time and money and tell viewers 
to read the Bible to find the truth. 
It would be a whole lot cheaper.


Donal Mahoney


Code Blue 

I used to talk to myself
and ask a lot of questions
but my answers made no sense
so now I talk to Him.

He never answers me 
but His actions are a bullhorn
I’ve heard blast for many years. 
A fool, I never listened. 

When I was young and full of it
most of my friends got in trouble.
His bullhorn always warned me 
and the cops never caught me.

I don’t care if He never talks
to me the way He talks
to saints and mystics.
A fool, I will always need 

to hear His bullhorn blast 
its Code Blue warnings.
I was young and full of it.
A fool, I never listened. 

Donal Mahoney


Subway Sarah Splits Her Loaves

She works in a sandwich shop
splitting loaves of bread
stacking them with meat
for the construction crew
across the street.
They come in ravenous
and raucous.

One of them arrives alone,
is kind and nice.
He eats and waves good-bye.
He's had his fill, Sarah thinks.
Why should he stay? 

She takes him home one night,
splits her legs and afterwards 
he kisses her and says 
see you at the shop, Hon,
and waves good-bye. 
He’s had his fill, Sarah thinks. 
Why won't he stay? 

Donal Mahoney

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Anniversary Poem

She’s forgotten how great I am,
although I do my best to remind her
after all these years of marriage.

She knew how great I was on
our wedding day and honeymoon
and for some months thereafter.

But just the other day we were
stationed in our recliners
and I was trying to help her see

life as it is and not as she 
has always wished it to be.
And the woman yawned.

She’s different now but it’s better
than being married to a groupie.
Tomorrow I’ll try reason again.

Donal Mahoney
 
Keeping His Dignity

A poor man comes to the door
after the storm last winter and

asks if he can have something 
to eat if he shovels the walk.

You say forget about the snow.
How about ham sandwiches

on rye bread and he says fine.
You ask if he wants mustard.

He says yes if it’s Grey Poupon,
the only mustard he eats.


Donal Mahoney


Angels or the Fat Lady


It’s pretty simple, really. 
The world will end 
whether we believe 
the Bible is a myth or truth.

If the Bible is the truth,  
the world will end,
a monk told me, 
when the angels come
to sort the good folk 
from the bad and

toss the bad folk into 
fire that never ends 
with weeping and 
gnashing of teeth. 

But if the Bible is a myth, 
an atheist told me,
the world will end
with a final aria
atop Mt. Everest 
when the fat lady sings.


Donal Mahoney


Looking for a Piece
 
Even though
we’re getting older
even rickety in some respects

my wife and I remain
involved in the joys of life.
We love each other more 

than we did decades ago,
which is why I tell her
on this hot summer day 

she looks fetching 
in those shorts and   
I’m sure tonight 

when the temperature drops 
I’ll be looking for a piece 
of onion on my burger.

Donal Mahoney


Marbles

When you get old
it’s nice to have all your marbles
even if you can’t count them

even if they look the same color
even if you can no longer hear them 
bounce off each other when your son

brings your grandson over
and he shoots marbles all over 
the house and they careen

like your thoughts this morning
as you try to recall where you put 
the marbles after the boy went home 

and you get down on your hands 
and knees and feel around and find them 
so when the boy comes over again

you can hand him the marble bag 
because your son just called 
and the boy will be here in an hour

laughing and shouting and wanting 
to shoot marbles all over the house
like heads rolling in Syria and Iraq.


Donal Mahoney
 

ADDICTION: DEATH OR INSANITY

My life moves on in the grips of addiction
I’ve been coughing for three weeks now with growing fears that a cancer is destroying me from inside
But I can’t simply stop, not now, not after so damn long
So long of smoking whatever I want, whenever it becomes available
I’ve smoked it all over the years from white widow skunk that made me go insane
To straight rolled-up tobacco in blue papers that just left me wheezing like an old man

Nearing thirty years of this deadly habit that I cannot shake
I love and need what it gives me every day
From chilling me out at the end of a hard day at work to just keeping me going
Whilst dealing with customers or people on the street
Whenever times get bad it’s always the first thing I reach for
If I’m at home it’ll be for the weed
If on the street it’ll just be for the baccy bag

Smoking will one day kill me but until that day I will remain gripped by its addiction
Knowing full well that I’ll never be able to give it up
Smoking my way to the mad house or the funeral home it don’t really matter now
All I know is it won’t be long now...

Bradford Middleton

FIGHTING FOR GOOD POETRY

Another night, another open-mic
This time though I should really win
The poem I’m going to read is great
About a night I can barely remember
Drunk out of my mind in Frisco town
When I was younger and more confident

But tonight, something feels wrong
The DJ plays some serious tunes
Which don’t really fit in with ambience desired
And then my mate gets asked to read first
A poem about death in acknowledgement of D-Day landings
And then a few more get to read their stuff

Mostly kids with back to front baseball caps
Whose heroes are the hip-hop people
That I ain’t ever really understood
Then it’s my turn and I read my piece
Uneasy and a little bit bored at what I’ve heard
And then I stumble, knowing I’ve blown my chance

At the end the scores are added up
And I offer some idiot outside for giving me 2 out of 10
I call him a clueless fool and the air turns nasty
The rest are a whole lot better but still not enough
As the fanfare offers a welcome to a new contestant
The wife of the organiser and its obvious she’ll win

She reads a sweary piece about what it’s like
To be married to the over-grown child
Who during the break, when I’m outside smoking
Yet another joint, tells me how great I was
But then when the results come it’s obvious that I ain’t won
And guess what? Yep, she wins allowing the feminists to rejoice

Bradford Middleton


THE END OF TIME (MAYBE)

It’s the end of time I hear
The Mayans prophesized we would all come to an apocalyptic end
And I just hope they are right
This civilization is not that anymore, it’s a crazed demented ride
Through the helter-skelter
Of modern living, the end of time

I hope it’s the end of time
This planet is fucked beyond all hope
There’s no hope for the future
For as long as we keep relying on ancient forms of representation
And unfair forms of remuneration
That is modern living, the end of time

I sometime wonder what it could be
This life of mine in this time at the end
I know it could be better
But I’m just one of the problems
One of those who believe, nee hope, the Mayans are right
This is modern living, the end of time

This is modern dying and the end of time
December 21st, 2012 and salvation at last
As it all comes crashing down
The monuments that we have been told are cornerstones of our time
With them go all our problems and at last
We can say this is modern living, maybe not the end of time

Bradford Middleton