Thursday, January 14, 2016


Special of the Day

It’s Rocky’s Diner
but it’s Brenda’s counter,
been that way for 10 years.
Brenda has her regulars
who want the Special of the Day.
They know the week is over 

when it’s perch on Friday.
Her drifters don’t care about 
the Special of the Day. 
They want Brenda instead
but she’s made it clear 
she’s not available.

Her regular customers tip well.
Long ago, they gave up
trying to see her after work.
After awhile her drifters go  
to the diner down the street 
to see if the waitress there

is any more hospitable. 
Brenda’s regulars don’t know
she has three kids her mother
watched every day until Brenda 
took a vacation out of town,
then came back and helped her 

mother find a place of her own. 
Now Brenda’s back at the diner,
serving her regulars and 
discouraging her drifters,
while Marsha, her bride,
watches the kids.

Donal Mahoney


Tenement Scene, Havana, 1962

Woman in a window
brushing long hair madly
screams at a little boy

down in the street
licking an ice cream cone
some man gave him

some man she doesn’t know
not the man she’s 
brushing her hair for

who doesn't show up.
The man with the ice cream
may have to do.

Donal Mahoney


Waiting Room

First time seeing this doctor,
a specialist. Took a month
to get an appointment.
The waiting room’s packed.
I grab the last seat 
next to a lady in a wheelchair
knitting something,
perhaps for a grandchild. 

I pull out my cell phone 
like everyone else
but just to check messages,
not into games.  
No one’s looking at magazines,
it seems, any more.
It’s a cell phone world,
messages and Tic-Tac-Toe.

Half an hour later the lady 
stops knitting and whispers
“Sit back and relax, son. 
Life’s a waiting room.
We all have appointments.
Every name is called.
Even those who believe
no doctor is in."

Donal Mahoney


A Symphony Lost

Harvey at 80
is losing his hearing.
He can’t hear his wife

when she talks,
a symphony lost.
But at dusk

in the garden
alone in a lawn chair
with a glass of iced tea

cubes circling
Harvey can hear 
the whippoorwill ask

and the cricket reply
and that’s all the truth
that he needs.

Donal Mahoney


Ambrose and the Blind Man

Decades ago a small college
out in the boondocks
put Ambrose, a freshman, 
on a Greyhound Bus to attend
a student convention in New York. 
No other student wanted to go.
The college had to send someone.

On the bus Ambrose sat next 
to a blind man who spent most 
of the trip telling Ambrose, 
a farm boy, all about women.
Ambrose listened with awe.
Everything he heard was new.

Ambrose knew little about girls
but had always liked them.
For his high school prom, 
a friend set him up with 
quiet girl who needed a date.
Ambrose liked Shirley.

Back then, TV sets were small
with the picture in black and white. 
“I Love Lucy” topped the charts.
It was Ambrose’s favorite show.

Back then, girls saved themselves 
for marriage so most of what 
the blind man told Ambrose 
was breaking news to him.
So many girls, what to do?
He didn’t have money to date.

Ambrose is now a retired farmer,
the father of nine, who often reflects
on the blind man’s advice when he 
sits in his rocker and wonders
after 50 years with Shirley if
the blind man was right to say:

“Son, it doesn’t matter how pretty 
a woman is because every woman 
has the basics any man needs.
Sample a few and find out.
Besides, you can trust me 
when I tell you they all look 
the same in the dark.”


Donal Mahoney


Man with the Can

Every morning 
before the sun comes up
there’s a feral cat on our deck 
waiting for a can of Fancy Feast.
It’s been that way for years.

It’s not always the same cat
because feral cats come and go
but barring a downpour of rain
or an overnight pile of snow
there’s always a cat 
outside our door, looking 
through the screen
waiting for service, 
sometimes licking its lips. 

The same cat can appear
at the door for weeks,
months, even years.
They’re close friends
with my wife but not with me.
We aren’t enemies but 
the cats favor my wife.
I understand why.

The cats find our house, I think,
not because the cat underground 
says the food’s good but  
somehow the cats know 
my wife was a farm girl 
that barn cats loved before 
she went off to college and 
took a job in the city.

I think they begin to believe 
my wife is one of them 
because almost every summer
she comes out in the afternoon
and sits on the deck and 
the morning cat comes back 
over the fence and hops up 
on her lap for a serious petting.

Over the years the cats and I 
have been acquaintances at best.
They know I’m the one who puts  
the can out before dawn
while my wife sleeps in. 
But not one of them has ever 
cozied up to me, the caterer, 
or why not call it as it is, 

the man with the can.
I have no problem with that
even if the best greeting
I can expect is caterwauling 
on the rare morning I’m slow 
popping the lid.


Donal Mahoney