Letter to Annie Far Away

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?

Cats At Their Bowls Lapping

This time there’s a postscript:
“If ever I cook dinner for you,
it will be Coquilles St. Jacques
and Jefferson Davis Pie.”

Imagine Angela,
after all these years,
rising and gliding
to check on my pie,

wouldn’t that be something?
Angela, come to Chicago,
and bring all of your cats.
I’ll watch those cats

in your lap napping,
you in my lap napping,
the cats at their bowls lapping,
and I in my chair laughing.

Angela, bring all of your cats
and come to Chicago
to make Coquilles St. Jacques
and Jefferson Davis Pie.

Little Cartons, Little Sacks

Every day at ten a.m.
I piss away
the pot of tea
I drank at six,
the tea that gets
me to the train.

At work I wait
for lunch and then
I eat so much
the waitress gawks.
I can't explain
the years till supper

when again
I'll dine alone,
bolt everything
that I bring home in
little cartons, little sacks.
After supper

she's not there
and so the couch
my slab till ten
when bed becomes
my mausoleum.

People Who Live Above Stores

Morse Avenue,

It's two in the morning
and people who live above stores
have sprung from their beds
this hot summer night.
They're leaning out of their windows
and bellowing into the street

at the baker who launched the alarm
in the Rogers Park Donut Shoppe.
It's been ringing for hours
and the police haven't come.
Not even the firemen.
The donuts will never get done

and it appears now that
people who live above stores
will remain in a rage
leaning out of their windows
waving cigarettes like strobes
and bellowing the rest of the night.

Lemon Underwear

The New Morse Hotel
Chicago, circa 1970

What if after Browne has gone
one of us discovers who Browne was,
leads the rally to his room before
the maid has time to broom the webs,
retrieve from underneath the bed
the sweat-stiff socks, the lemon underwear?

What if before he leaves Browne scrawls
across the dresser’s dust: “I have leased
new quarters and have gone to them.
Don’t give the clothes you find here to the poor.
Don’t burn the books. Beware the next
who rents this room, who leaves it only after dark,

who screams if the maid knocks once
to ask if she may clean. When he arrives
have four men bear him, belly down, downstairs.
Tell them: 'Pitch him out across the lawn!
Let him land in a lake of sun.
Let him drown there.' ”

© 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.