A Low Voice and a Nice Walk
Gramps by the fire
in his rocker hunched over
is rolling his smoke with care
when Tom, his grandson, asks,
“What’s the most important thing
to look for in a wife?”
Gramps stares into the fire intently
then finally says, “You want a wife
with a low voice and a nice walk,
a low voice because later in life
your ears give out but her odd jobs
become more numerous
and a nice walk because you want to
let her go first forever and make
all that extra work worthwhile.”
No Paper This Morning
Most days the newspaper hits
the lawn by four in the morning
but it's six already and I don't see it.
I'll have to pull on my pants
and go out to see if it's hiding
in my wife's flowers and bushes.
She keeps adding more plants
to the jungle she's created out there
with parrots and macaws on the way.
But instead of going out
I tell her it's a nice morning
and suggest she check on her roses.
In this heat, they may need water.
And while she's out there I suggest
she scan the garden for the paper
in case it's held hostage by the foliage.
After coffee she sails out the door
and returns with no paper but brings
an armful of roses, a bouquet
I welcome more than the poison ivy
I find every day in the paper.
Two Funerals in One Day
The alarm clock screams at 5 a.m.
and I get up to attend a funeral
50 miles away, a long drive back
to a corner of Chicago once rife
with corned beef and cabbage but
redolent today with salsa and tequila.
I head for the bathroom to shower
and brush my teeth but when
I turn the light on, I see a long
mahogany bug, species unknown,
glistening and motionless
on the cap of my toothpaste.
As a former caseworker in the projects
and someone with a gardener for a wife,
I have seen a variety of bugs, urban
and agrarian, and if they behave,
I normally don't bother them,
except for mosquitoes
that land and happen to like me.
So I tell this bug on the toothpaste cap
that I have a funeral to attend today
and it's 50 miles away so please,
be a good bug and move on.
Of course he doesn't move.
Instead, he twirls his antennae
and rubs his pincers together.
Finally, he says somberly
"Can you get this cap off?
I've been trying all night.
I hear this stuff tastes good."
As I would do later that day
for my old friend at his funeral,
I say a prayer for the bug
and send him on his way,
a burial at sea, if you will,
down, down, down he goes
to the hymn of a flushing toilet.
I can still hear his last words:
"My wife had octuplets.
They're under your bathtub.
Tell them I said good-bye.
And have a nice day!"
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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