Monday, November 9, 2015

How They Do It in Syria Today

First, we place the neck on the block
and put the basket underneath
the head and then make sure the blade 
is sharp enough before we ask the person 
one more time just to be polite:
Are you sure you’re not one of us?

And if the answer’s no, we
pick up our bullhorn and announce
loud enough for the others 
waiting in their orange to hear:
"Going once, going twice."
Then we pull the rope and

the blade drops and that one’s done.
Then we uncage the next one and tell him 
to put the head on a pole and bag the rest
before we position him on the same block 
and politely ask him the same question:
Are you sure you’re not one of us?

Donal Mahoney

Multi-Tasking Drug
In California the governor 
has signed a law permitting
doctors to use a drug
ending the life of the 
terminally ill so they can 
die and not suffer.

In Oklahoma the governor
has halted all executions 
until a drug can be found 
that will kill the condemned
without causing them pain.
Some think a phone call to

the governor of California
from the governor of Oklahoma   
asking for the name of  
the drug that ends life for
the terminally ill is in order.
Others prefer lynching.

Donal Mahoney

Stranger Comes to Town

Beautiful fall day
in a potter’s field 
outside a small town.
A funeral is underway
but that doesn’t stop 
the leaves russet and gold 
a few still green 
falling among the stones
without a name.

The minister reads a verse 
over the grave of a man 
found by deer hunters.
No idea who he is or
where he came from,
a body dumped.

Four people from 
the clapboard church
with the wayward steeple
over the hill gather 'round 
heads bowed, hands clasped.

An old worker with a shovel
stands like a soldier 
near the shed and
waits for everyone to leave
so he can finish up.
It’s almost lunch time.

One by one cars pull away
and now it’s just us, the dirt 
and a gold leaf falling on me.

Donal Mahoney

A Certain Look

Some things you can’t undo.
A remark, perhaps, you can retract
or try to with an explanation. 

But a certain look can
burn forever in the mind
of its observer, a missile you

never knew you launched.
Maya Angelou was right.
Some folks can’t recall

years later what you said
but they remember instantly
how you made them feel.

Donal Mahoney

Remainder Bin

We write the stories 
of our lives between 

the bookends 
of birth and death

They stay on the shelf 
as long as we live

and then go in 
the remainder bin 

after we die.
No one buys them

and the paper’s recycled 
to print the stories 

of millions of people
yet to be born 

except for the stories 
that are never told.

They are the stories
Planned Parenthood sells.

Donal Mahoney

Martha and Mel Wait for the Elevator

I died from a rattlesnake bite
and found myself in line with
other zombies in front of a bank 
of elevators, the doors opening 
and closing as if by metronome.

Every time a door opened a voice
called the names of 12 zombies
who boarded the elevator single file.
As the doors closed, Led Zeppelin 
or Bing Crosby played in the background
depending on whether the elevator went 
up or down according to the light 
winking above the door

The rest of us waited our turn
as more zombies arrived 
and lined up behind us.
I saw no one I knew except 
a couple who looked like 
Martha Stewart and Mel Brooks 
discussing the future.
Mel was on stilts so he looked 
Martha straight in the eye.

When the rattlesnake bit me,
Martha and Mel were alive on Earth
so I had no idea why they were there 
with us zombies but nevertheless 
I listened as Martha told Mel
she didn’t care which way 
the elevator went as long as 
she found prime rib and a glass 
of Dom Pérignon waiting
when she arrived.

Mel didn’t care either, he said,
as long as he found a steamed
Nathan’s Hot Dog with two squirts 
of mustard, lots of relish, 
raw onion and sport peppers 
hotter than hell and a 
tankard of seltzer iced.
Seltzer is better, he said,
than Dom Pérignon.
Ask any sommelier.

Another elevator arrived and Martha 
and Mel, arm and arm, boarded.
This time I didn’t hear Led Zeppelin 
or Bing Crosby in the background. 
I saw Martha stare Mel in the eye,
wag her finger and tell him to try
prime rib because too much 
cholesterol lurks in hot dogs.
Enough to kill you, she said.

Donal Mahoney

Helpless I do not know if good intentions prevail among the elected, among the appointed, leaving me apprehensive that the fate ...