Mingle
 
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.”
 



Women Who Walk Like Men
 
They seem to be everywhere now,
women who walk like men.
With hair cropped in a paint brush,
bullets for eyes and knives for noses,
they walk long halls, hips so still
they can have no pelvis.
Then one day you meet one
and become her friend.
A week later you still wonder:
Are all the women who walk like men
wildflowers, really,
locked in a hothouse, craving the sun?
 
 


Blinking Like Ferrets

I've been too busy
the last two years to chat
with anyone in the office.
Today, however, I pause
at the pencil sharpener
while my co-workers
calculate and jot.
It makes no difference, you see,
if I remain silent until retirement
or if suddenly I start talking again.

All we must remember is
that we decay together,
that this charade
we give ourselves to
doesn't require that we speak,
that all we must do, really,
is calculate and jot.

If we calculate well,
if we jot well, the charade
will carry us through.

In the end, we'll see what is true
when blinking like ferrets
we emerge in sunlight,
gaping and gasping,
free of this maze created
by the family of man.




Old Man at the Diner
 
He slaughters his hamburger steak
with a fork and a butter knife,
massacres ringlets of onions
again and again
 
thumps catsup all over
the bloody commingling,
then ever so slowly
peppers and salts
 
and reminds me of Hrebic,
whose wife, back
on the block of my youth,
sat all summer out on her stoop,
 
knees awry, one eye black,
the other turning gray,
sunning the great white hydrants
of her phlebitic legs.
 
 


Hams of August Smother

 
The folks are angry, really.
They can’t explain the diaper,
yet they would explain poor Jack.
It’s a plot, you see, to show
poor Jack’s been had.
 
Folks can’t see why
no matter what Jack does,
even if he scrubs
in water warm enough
to soften turnips,
 
sheathes himself
in eaus, colognes,
dons, perhaps, a silk of talc,
folks can’t see why the night
still squats on Jack,
 
jiggling its hams
of August smother.
Or why the cleric in the courtyard
chants, ”Elements of Jack
will always reek.”
 
It’s a plot, you see, to show
poor Jack’s been had. That’s why
the folks are angry, really;
they can’t explain the diaper,
yet they would explain poor Jack.
 



© Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, MO. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poems published in or accepted by The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, Public Republic (Bulgaria), Gloom Cupboard (U.K.), Revival (Ireland), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), Poetry Friends, Eskimo Pie, Poetry Super Highway, Pirene's Fountain (Australia) and other publications.