Archive for the ‘Donal Mahoney’ Category


Chicago, 2009

Because he works in an office and is white
and because she who tans anyway has just
returned from a week at the Beach,
the commuters are certain she’s not black
yet they rustle in their seats.
They want to see her hands flick.
They want to see if rivers run dark
through ivory palms.
Martin may be dead
and Obama may have won
but in Chicago this morning at dawn
a rainbow of people
still rustle in their seats.

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Listen, mister, you’re a guest
at the Night Owl Club
so you can sit here
all night long, tip me
after every song,
buy me scotch
till the final gong
but none of this will help.

You’ll still go home alone
unless some other lady has a need
to make her rent
and sees the opportunity
you offer. It won’t be me;
I can’t be bothered.
I need a different kind of man,
a man who’ll hug me tighter

than my panties can,
a big old man
whose big old tongue
will be my tampon
when I’m dry.
If you’ll get off that stool
and look in the mirror
behind those whiskey bottles

standing at attention,
you’ll see clearly why
you can never be that man,
not even for an hour.
I’m no Billie Holliday,
but even with my glasses off,
I can see that you
ain’t no John Wayne.

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Every evening, up in my room,
I try to write but Chicago is hot
and it’s better outside,
strolling along the Lake or driving anywhere
with the windows down.

You sound good,
if undecided about things.
My life gets better no matter
how hard I try to make it worse.
No medicine for a month now;

no poems, either.
I can’t recall my last
spontaneous erection.
I’d blame it all on the heat
but you’d know better.

Summer in Chicago
makes people accessible
and I’ve become chatty
in these later years.
I find that talking small with people

oiled and stretched like tarps
on Pratt Avenue Beach
trumps any summer attempt
at revising a poem winter
revisions never made right.

We’ll see if my new affair
with society lasts. How long will I
continue to meet strangers
who introduce me
to myself?

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Envelope in the Pigeonhole

This evening
when I return to the hotel
I see in my pigeonhole
Angela’s writing
on a yellow envelope.

What excuse
will she have for not writing?
Too busy, perhaps,
stirring cauldrons of soup
while the cats dash about
licking her calves.

Or don’t the cats know enough
to lick at her calves?
Would that I were the cats
and the cats were taller.

Caseworker Determining Eligibility

Cabrini-Green Projects, Chicago

The child, age two, hammocked in the half
moon of his mother’s arms, is locked
in palsy, yet moves an eyelid as I ask,
moves the other as his mother answers,
application form interrogation.
The father was a white policeman.
“Curiosity,” the mother says. “No more.
I didn’t go with him for money.”

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“On the sill today
the sun’s pure white.
Usually it’s gold,”
says Nell, propped
in a smock,
all frills,

sipping tea
turning cold
as she braids
white ram
horns of hair
high and tight

to the sides
of her skull.
“On the gold days
like this I warm
my hands for hours
at a time on this sill.

the doctor said
someone should
paint me.
A still life
that’s what he said.”

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Two Poems by Donal Mahoney

Let Tambourines Begin

Puerto Rican girl
thin, thin,
street lights pour

bourbon on your hair,
anise on your skin.
Puerto Rican girl

thin, thin,
gin one white smile for me.
Let tambourines begin


An Easter Rising

Poetry by priests?
Who gives it more than mock attention?
We read their poems, yes,

author first, then the title,
finally the verse itself.
Not much, except for Hopkins.

We wait for Rome, you see,
to give us in addition to its saints
one more decent poet.

A sot once said
“When things get bad enough,
you will see a Celt,

armed with a quiver of poems,
ride flaming out of the hills,
soaring over the lakes,

wearing a rainbow for a Roman collar.”
Things are bad enough right now by half.
We need to hear his gallop now.

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Mingle by Donal Mahoney

Tomorrow morning when I wake
it’ll be the nurse who’s crazy.
I’ll heave my body up
on its elbows and yell
in her ear, “It’s time for your pill.
Get dressed. Breakfast is ready

in the Day Room. Juice, rolls, bacon, eggs.
You’ll find a tray with your name on it,
faces you know, a chance for conversation.
Eat each meal at a different table.
Mingle. Before you can get out of here,
you have to love all the faces you hate.”

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Outside, the still
of crickets.
Inside, petals
of a cold sore
a boutonniere
for full lips.
Looking up, I tell her
two eggs, basted,
hash browns,
coffee now.
Later on,
she says
the birthmark
I found
south of her navel
she’s had
all her life.

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