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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Donal Mahoney Chronicles Drifters, Skid Row, the Gendarmes, and Body Bags

Special of the Day

It’s Rocky’s Diner
but it’s Brenda’s counter,
been that way for 10 years.
Brenda has her regulars
who want the Special of the Day.
They know the week is over

when it’s perch on Friday.
Her drifters don’t care about
the Special of the Day.
They want Brenda instead
but she’s made it clear
she’s not available.

Her regular customers tip well.
Long ago, they gave up
trying to see her after work.
After awhile her drifters go 
to the diner down the street
to see if the waitress there

is any more hospitable.
Brenda’s regulars don’t know
she has three kids her mother
watched every day until Brenda
took a vacation out of town,
then came back and helped her

mother find a place of her own.
Now Brenda’s back at the diner,
serving her regulars and
discouraging her drifters,
while Marsha, her bride,
watches the kids.


Just for a Day

If you want to know
what it’s like to have nothing
just for a day

head for Skid Row.
Trade your suit and 20 bucks
for the attire of a resident

standing against a wall.
Buy a tin cup and yellow pencils
and go to Union Station in time

for the evening rush hour
when suburbanites with jobs
on Michigan Avenue go home

for dinner and a little HBO.
Flop down near the entrance
in your tatters with pencils and cup.

Wear Charles Bronson sunglasses
and hold high a sign that says,
“Will Work for Food.”

Count the briefcases that sail by
and see how many pencils you sell,
how many people even look at you

before the gendarmes arrive
and poke you with a baton
then walk you away. 


Body Bag


I'm on my way to Larry’s Place,
a food pantry in the city.
I park a block away because

parking in front of Larry’s
isn’t wise even if one drives
a clunker. My old Buick

almost qualifies as that.
It’s getting up in years
but still able to get around.

I’m wobbling in the middle of
two shopping bags of food
my wife found in our pantry.

Someone at Larry’s Place can
take it home and have a meal.
If they have a home. Not all do.

Certainly not the fellow sleeping
on the bench outside Larry’s
in a black body bag, the zipper

slightly ajar so he can breathe.
Lots of people go in and out
but no one bothers him.

I go in, drop off my bags and
exchange pleasantries with Larry.
He says business is too good.

He says the guy in the body bag
is a new arrival from out of town,
suggests I have a chat with him.

His story is remarkable, Larry says.
On the way out I see the fellow
in the body bag is sitting up.

I give him five bucks
and he asks if I want to hear
the story about his body bag.

I say I’d like to but I’m rushed,
that I’ll be back tomorrow with
my notebook and camera and

I’ll pay him. After all, everyone
has to make a living. Or find
their food at Larry’s Place.


Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and  Commonweal.  Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Jim Brennan Watches the Whiptails, Nightrcrawlers, Monarchs, and Firecrackers in Watermelons Upon Brawn and Fine White Sand

Thirteen Easy-to-follow Steps

Beneath three feet of snow outside the bedroom window
lies dirt.
Three inches below dirt live six-inch night crawlers
my grandson likes to pull and bite. They burst
like a firecracker stuffed inside a watermelon
grown in the dirt night crawlers enrich
burrowing their long, juicy bodies into the soil
the way Steinbeck’s laborers tilled the fields of Salinas.

Replace the sparkplug each year
diligently, like mid-April tax filings.
Fresh gas is imperative
condensation-free like the oratory of Churchill.
Clean oil is translucent
on a machined stainless steel shaft.
Pump seven times to prime the carburetor.
Only nine easy steps remain.

I prefer a shovel
powered by sweat and grunt and brawn
and that good soreness in the evening
when I ease into bed nearly too tired to make love
with my warm lover who saut├ęs vegetables
in just the right amount of olive oil
they slide across the pan like night crawlers
and repeat again and again.

The Water Diviner

A water diviner deems
the witching rod a hoax.
Faith leads to the well.

You veer from the weary path
trodden by tired men who worship convention
muddied by interpretation, bloodied by sermons.

You sidestep rattlers on the rock-strewn ridge
snapping at leather ankles, unleashing venom.
You blaze ahead undeterred.

Even when the earth cracks
open and swallows the timid
who cling to convention

you follow your soul,
the fire that fuels
a mountain spring.

How To Write The Last Line Of A Poem

There’s a cold-water spring
on an unmarked trail in Big Sur
its healing waters hidden

by thicket under a canopy of Torrey Pines
two hundred feet above iron surf
washing fine white sand into the sea.

Nobody has ever sipped
the spring’s hallowed waters
except whiptail and monarch,

neither of which are able to sketch maps
or scribble directions with their tiny digits
and even if they could it’s unlikely

they ever learned proper penmanship
or the dreary rules of formal grammar,
which, of course, is inconsequential to the poet.


I was a street corner vendor, carwash grunt, and labored on warehouse loading docks before I turned eighteen and went to work on the Philadelphia waterfront. Decades later this blue-collar heritage filters into my work as author, poet and Cityscape editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal. I read poetry in and around Philadelphia, and my work has appeared in Everyday Fiction, Fringe, Salon.com, The Moonstone Anthology and other print and online media outlets. My stories have been finalist in competitions at Fish Publishing in County Cork, Ireland, Allegory Magazine, and The Summer Literary Series at Concordia University. I am the author of the memoir Twenty-four Years to Boston. I blog at Poetry In Motion and my website is www.jimbrennansr.com