Reading Seamus Heaney
The Second Commandment
is pretty specific: Thou shalt not take
the Name of the Lord Thy God in vain.
It’s one of the few commandments
I seldom break but the other night
I was reading Seamus Heaney
and was torn by the beauty
ringing in my ears and “Jesus Christ!”
slipped out of my mouth but I
don’t think I said His Name in vain.
I spoke in high praise of a poet who
has left behind a body of work that
leaves me gasping for a respirator.
But the Second Commandment
is pretty specific so I plan to ask
Father Kelly if my "Jesus Christ!”
while reading Seamus Heaney
was a mortal sin, and if he says yes,
I’ll be careful reading Heaney again
because if I find better poems
and "Jesus Christ!" slips out again
I might have a heart attack and die
pajama-clad in my old recliner.
I could wake up ablaze in Hell.
I'll have to be careful reading
Seamus Heaney again.
Sarah works lunch in a Subway shop
building sandwiches for construction men
putting up a skyscraper down the street.
The men pick their own bread and meat and let
Sarah pick their cheese because instead of a cookie
with their lunch they’d prefer Sarah after work.
Every month or so the crew changes and Sarah picks
the man who looks the best, says the nicest things
and agrees to meet him for coffee later at Starbucks.
If he passes muster over lattes, Sarah takes him home
and finds herself an hour later staring at the ceiling while
he pulls on his boots, says he’ll call and goes home.
None of the men has ever called or is seen again
except at Subway where he now picks his own cheese.
Under his pillow he keeps
a pistol not to shoot the man
coming through the window
with a bazooka at midnight
and waking the wife who later
asks him why he shot the burglar
instead of asking him what he wanted.
It might have been something she
planned to give to Goodwill anyway.
He keeps the pistol under his pillow
to take into dreams that wake him
every night in Cinemascope
where he again is the lead actor
in films 50 years ago surrounded by
lesser men in supporting roles
who drove him nuts when he was
young and handsome and now
they’re back again because they heard
he has Old-Timers Disease
and they want to badger him
about their wives who chased him
all over Hollywood on Oscar Night.
They’re mopes, he tells his wife,
who never had a lead role, mopes
who would have been shot on set
if he hadn’t feared execution
but now in his dreams every night
these mopes had better duck.
The worst sentence he can get is
dreams for life without parole.
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.