Posted by: tsopr | November 9, 2012

Donal Mahoney, American Poet

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), Revival (Ireland), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), Poetry Friends, Poetry Super Highway, Pirene’s Fountain (Australia) and other publications.

Featured Poetry of Donal Mahoney

Lifts Her Like A Chalice

The weekday Mass at 6 a.m.
brings the old folks out
from bungalows
around the church.
They move like caterpillars
down sidewalks,
some with canes,
some on walkers.

Father Doyle says the Mass
and then goes back to the rectory
to care for his mother
who cannot move or speak
because of a stroke.

And every Sunday at noon
when the church is full,
Father Doyle, in full vestments,
wheels his mother
in a lump
down the middle aisle
and lifts her like a chalice
and places her in the front pew
before he ascends to the altar.

Sometimes at night,
when his mother’s asleep,
Father Doyle comes back to the Church
and rehearses in the dark
three hymns she long ago
asked him to sing at her funeral.

He practices the hymns
because the doctor said
she could go at any time.
When that time comes,
he doesn’t want to miss a note.
The last thing she ever said was
“Son, I’ll be listening.”

Apple Fritter and a Single Rose

After 30 years together,
Carol tells me late one evening
in the manner of a quiet wife
that I have yet to write a poem

about her, something she
will never understand in light
of all those other poems
she says I wrote

about those other women
before she drove North.
And so I tell her once again
I wrote those other poems

about no women I ever knew
the way I now know her
even if I saw them once or twice
for dinner, maybe,

and a little vodka
over lime and ice.
Near midnight, though,
she says again

in the manner of a quiet wife
it’s been thirty years
and still no poem.
When morning comes

I motor off to town to buy
a paper and a poem
for Carol
but find instead

undulating in a big glass case
an apple fritter,
tanned and glistening,
lying there just waiting.

So I buy the lovely fritter
and a single long-stem rose
orphaned near the register,
roaring red, and still

at full attention.
I bring them home but find
Carol still asleep
and so I put the fritter

on the breadboard
and the rose right next to it,
at the proper angle.
When she wakes I hope

the fritter and the rose
will buy me time until
somewhere in the attic
of my mind I find

a poem that says
more about us than
this apple fritter,
tanned and glistening,

lying there just waiting,
and a single long-stem rose,
roaring red, and still
at full attention.

In Certain Matters of the Heart

It’s a matter of the heart,
the doctor says,
and he can fix it
with catheter ablation.
“It works miracles,” he says,
“in certain matters of the heart.”

He’s been a cardiologist for years.
“Take my word for it,” he says.
“You’ll be sedated. Won’t feel a thing.”

No excavation in my chest, either.
Instead, he’ll make little holes
in my groin and snake tiny wires
to the surface of my heart
and kill the current that makes

my heart race like a hare
at times and mope
like a turtle other times.
He’s never lost a patient.
“You’ll be fine,” he says.
“Trust me.”

Nine out of 10 ablations work.
I’ll save hundreds a month, he says,
on medications. No more Multaq.
No more Cardizem. And I’ll never
have to wear a heart monitor again.

“Shall we give it a try?” he asks.
“I’ve got an opening
two weeks from Monday.
It’s an outpatient procedure.
You’ll go home the same day,
rest for a week and then resume
your usual activities, even bowling.
Do you like bowling? My nurses do.
I prefer woodcarving.”

“Okay, Doc,” I tell him.
“I’ll give it a try, but tell me,
where were you 40 years ago
when the kids were small
and I was young, like a bull,
and a different matter of the heart
dropped me like a bullet.
Are you sure my heart’s still ticking?
Where’s your stethoscope?
I haven’t felt a thing in years.”


Listen, Dad,
Mom’s dead, but
you can dance
with her again.

She’s waiting
in the sky, behind
a star, humming
to the music.

You and Mom
can waltz around
the moon forever.
She may even sing

that song you like.
I’ll comb your hair,
shine your shoes
and press your old tuxedo.

There’s no rush.
You know Mom.
She’d never dance
with anyone but you.

Kaleidoscope and Harpsichord

As I’ve told my wife too many times,
the meaning of any poem hides
in the marriage of cadence and sound.

Vowels on a carousel,
consonants on a calliope,
whistles and bells,
we need them all
tickling our ears.
Otherwise, the lines
are gristle and fat, no meat.

Is it any wonder, then,
my wife has a problem
with any poem I give her to read
for a second opinion, especially
when the poem has no message
and I’m simply trying to hear
what I’m saying and don’t care
if I understand it.

The other night in bed
I gave her another poem to read
and afterward she said this poem
was no different than the others.
She had hoped I’d improve.

“After all,” she said,
“you’ve been writing for years
but reading a poem like this is
like looking through a kaleidoscope
while listening to a harpsichord.”

Point well taken,
point well said.

But then I asked her
what should a man do
if he has careened for years
through the caves of his mind
spelunking for the right
line for a poem

only to hear his wife say
after reading one of his poems
that it was like
“looking through a kaleidoscope
while listening to a harpsichord.”
What should he do–quit?

“Not a chance,”
she said this morning,
enthroned at the kitchen table,
as regal as ever in her fluttery gown
and buttering her English muffin
with long, languorous strokes
Van Gogh would envy.

“He should write even more,
all day and all night, if need be.
After all,” she said, “my line
about the kaleidoscope and harpsichord
still needs a poem of its own.
It’s all meat, no gristle, no fat.”

Copyright © 2012 Donal Mahoney


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