Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Donal Mahoney- Three Poems

Old Quilter, Old Poet

She’s been making quilts
for half a century and he’s been 
making poems that long as well
and every now and then he brings 
a chocolate shake to her place
so they can take a break and talk.

He always finds her at the frame, 
peering through thick lenses.  
"I’m still house bound, Walt,"
she laughs and likes to say.

Once she told him quilts are poems.
She works with scraps of cloth 
and he with scraps of words and quilts 
and poems are never done until all
the scraps are where they have to be.

Now she's working on Double Wedding Ring, 
a quilt not unlike a sonnet in that both follow
patterns of their own but she likes crazy quilts 
because she can improvise with scraps 
she finds on floors around the house.
Her job's to make something beautiful 
from scraps others might throw away.

He has no problem understanding that. 
He saves scraps of words and marries them
in ways some folk find odd or useless.
Finishing her shake she says maybe
they play jazz and just don’t know it. 

She likes Miles Davis and puts his album on  
when a crazy quilt won't go her way 
but she would never listen to Miles while 
she’s at work on a Double Wedding Ring. 
Yo-Yo Ma, she says, is the man for that.
The old poet says he would never disagree.

Life in a Barrel

When we were kids
growing up in the city
we had prairies 
and a little hill
and we’d put Stevie
in a barrel and push him
down the hill. 

He’d laugh and scream
all the way down.
He loved the whole trip
and wanted to do it again.
As little boys we were 
happy to oblige him.

Everyone grew up 
and went off to college,
moved to the suburbs,
found wives and had kids
but not Stevie who stutters 
except when he sings.

Every midnight now 
he gets on the subway 
with his empty thermos
and barrels back home.
On Sundays they say
he sounds like Pavarotti
in the church choir.

Marimba in the Afternoon

Raul is a kind man
who plays marimba
in a salsa band at LA clubs
late into the night.

Some afternoons he plays 
at a nursing home in Cucamonga 
where he was born, grew up
and dashed home from school.

He’s paid with a taco,
maybe an enchilada,
a burrito now and then. 
On Sunday a fresh tamale

almost as good as his mother
used to make after being in  
the fields all day, long ago.
Old-timers in the day room 

bounce in their chairs, some 
on wheels, to Raul's music.
Long ago they were young 
and danced all night in

tiny clubs after being paid 
a few dollars a basket for 
picking grapes and plums 
under pounding sun.

Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

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