Donal Mahoney



I was there the day

there trickled down the wall

of an old man's room one roach


that stopped across

a canyon in the plaster till

the old man's elevated slipper fell.


The roach absorbed the blow

and as though perforated for that purpose

dissolved into an archipelago.


The old man looked at me

and patiently explained, "Despite my 

constant smacking of its brethren


one roach each day will trickle down that wall

and pause and pose as if to say,

'Go ahead and smack me, that's okay.'"


To take advantage of the archipelago at hand

the old man pointed toward the last palpitating island

and once again explained,


"Each roach I smack, you see,

offers me that same good-bye

one last flicker of antennae."





The last day of September

I carefully toe the husk

of a horsefly

out of my office

onto bright tiles

Stella will buff

to a sheen

while I am at home

surveying my supper.


Till it's time for my train

I'll sit at my desk

and listen to the day

drone near the ceiling,

helicopter down

like the horsefly,

touch ground,

then taxi awhile

before braking.




How many times have I said

I'm through teasing myself,

through pretending

I don't enjoy

the wreath of a woman

warm around me.

How many times have I said

I'll go out on the streets,

as I have in the past,

in cummerbund and sash,

top hat and cane,

a one-man parade

with bugle and drum,

seeking the sweetbreads

served there all day,

fresh off the brazier,

medium rare.





In two more hours I'll have to shower,

shave and coffee-prop my lids

and otherwise prepare for day. It's 4 a.m.

and now the barkeep, Griggs,


is rushing me, the first 

to come, the last to leave, 

the lad who just an hour before

was coaxed to quaff one more.


At work I'll cummerbund a smile,

hold my head and sit all day,

play another endless game

of solitaire or tic-tac-toe. 


Griggs' apron's off. The neon's out

and now he'll set the locks in back.

The spittle, butts and half-slain beers

he'll leave for Willie who'll soon be here


to dance his broom between

the tables and the scattered chairs

as smoothly as Kelly or Astaire.

At 6 a.m., he'll climb the ladder 


near the door and aim his broom

through the transom toward the sky.

Every morning Willie puts a 

bullet through the eye of sunrise.

Donal Mahoney 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 Innisfree Poetry Journal, Orbis (England), Commonweal, The Christian Science Monitor, Revival (Ireland), The Beloit Poetry Journal, The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), The National Catholic Reporter, Poetry Super Highway, Public Republic (Bulgaria), and other publications.



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