Monday, September 5, 2016

Radio Flyer

When you were a boy in 1948
living on a block of bungalows
in Chicago right after WWII 
you had a red wagon 
you pulled behind your mother
going to the grocery store.

Rationing of food was over.
Beef was back and butter too, 
no more margarine you had to add 
yellow to. Now you had big bags 
of groceries to pull all the way home
in your red wagon with your mother
in a house dress swinging her purse
and smiling behind you.

You were the man of the house 
on hot summer days and your 
red wagon was the family car 
because although your father
had a car, an old Plymouth,  
he took it to work every day 
and didn’t get home until 
late at night because of 
the splendor of overtime.

The only caveat was 
your red wagon had to have 
Radio Flyer painted on the side 
or the other boys would say
you didn’t have a real wagon.
The war was over but they said 
your family couldn’t afford one. 
Same thing when you got 
your first two-wheel bike.
If it wasn’t a Schwinn, they said 
your family couldn’t afford one. 


Donal Mahoney


At Midnight in New York


It’s midnight in New York
and in this tall building 
Herb and Molly are 
in bed making love.
Molly is a virgin
and it hurts.
Olga’s upstairs
in bed with cancer
terminal and it hurts.
Melvin’s downstairs 
in bed snoring.
Nothing hurts because
he doesn’t know yet 
he has multiple sclerosis.
In the hallway a thief
goes floor to floor
trying door knobs
hoping one will open.
All the doors are locked, 
chained and bolted.
Everyone is safe.
No one can get in.


Donal Mahoney


A Sisyphus Moment

There’s a force that makes 
a boulder hard to push up a hill. 
And there’s always a boulder 
and always a hill when it comes to  
helping the poor find something 
to eat, somewhere to live, a job 
they can go to every day.

Sometimes the boulder slips 
and rolls back downhill
and Sisyphus jumps aside.
Accidents happen. 

But sometimes the one  
who owns that hill says no
and blows his trumpet and gives
the boulder a mighty shove 
and Sisyphus gets run over. 

Then the poor must wait 
a century longer
for another Sisyphus
to volunteer and get 
behind the boulder.

No wonder the poor
are getting together 
and grumbling louder.
They know Sisyphus isn't
the answer to the problem. 
They must push the boulder.


Donal Mahoney


Not as Bad as Nagasaki

Old Yoshiko in Tokyo can’t sleep
because her husband snores
so she sits in her kimono
and eats a few rice cakes 

with a few sips of saké.
She thinks about the past
and then calls her daughter 
in Chicago to remind her 

that Truman’s bomb killed 
almost all of her family.
Come home right away,
her mother tells her

as soon as you complete 
your degree in chemistry.
Earthquakes and tsunamis 
aren't as bad as Nagasaki.


Donal Mahoney


Priest and Prostitute

The old priest who won’t retire
despite his bishop’s hints
rides his bike around the parish
every day for exercise.
He waves and smiles at everyone
and they wave back.

But now he’ll be in bed
at least three weeks because
he flew over the handlebars
and broke several ribs,
his elbow and his nose. 

Everyone in the parish now is
praying for the priest except 
the prostitute who sees him 
riding his bike and waving 
when she gets home from work

She saw the ambulance take
the priest away and stopped 
that night at the candy store and 
sent him a box of fudge.
A nice old priest, she thought.
She doesn’t have time to pray.


Donal Mahoney