Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal, Guwahatian Magazine (India), The Galway Review (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), The Osprey Review (Wales), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other magazines. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs
Coffee with Mr. Conscience
There are a lot of people like me
neither rich nor poor, idling
in the middle who have never wanted
for anything in our lives.
We were reared by parents
who fed us and sent us to school.
We graduated and found jobs
and then moved on to better ones.
We raised families of our own.
We have pensions now
and can pay our bills.
We can buy a new recliner
when the old one breaks.
Which is why I hate to stop
for coffee at Pete’s Diner
and find Mr. Conscience there
sipping his and waiting to ask me
what I’ve done for the poor lately.
He’s an old caseworker who
worked in the projects until retirement.
He volunteers now with a group that
caulks the gaps public grants don't cover.
He never gives me a moment’s peace,
always after me to help a needy person.
He’ll take cash or a check, isn't fussy.
He’s Mr. Conscience and he drives me nuts.
But I wouldn't have coffee with anyone else
after watching the inauguration.
A Question for Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof defended himself
in the sentencing phase of his trial
after he was convicted of killing
nine people during a Bible study,
the nine people who welcomed him
after he walked into their church.
Had I been the judge I would have
asked Mr. Roof to approach the bench
for a private consultation and I’d have
said the court knows you’re sane
because you were certified to stand trial
and you have said insanity is not
the reason you killed these people.
You said it had to be done and you did it.
Mr. Roof, are you possessed?
An Askew Life
On a clear day in the day room
he will tell anyone he has
had an askew life.
When he was a small boy
out for a Sunday walk
with his parents
his father would shout
not to walk on the edge
of the sidewalk
and in grammar school
the nuns would get upset
because he didn’t always
write between the lines
and at jobs after college
despite doing things well
and getting promotions
he had a habit of being late
and in a long otherwise
his wife would get upset
because he didn't put stamps
on envelopes straight.
On a bad day in the day room
he will tell anyone none
of those people is still alive.
Mourning a Child at Midnight
Some choose not to have children
others maybe one or two
three seems to be the max now
it’s not like when Paul was young
and a family might have had six or more
the wife at home, the husband working.
Families were big back then.
Now families are considered big
when a couple has more than three.
Years ago Paul and Faye had five
but after she took that midnight call
and learned they had lost a daughter
Faye cried for awhile and then
hugged Paul and whispered
why didn’t we have seven.
A Visit to Charlie’s Diner
A corner sentinel for 40 years,
Charlie’s Diner is the only
landmark in a neighborhood
of blue-collar people
who love their burgers thick
and juicy along with fries
and a giant pickle.
Nina has managed Charlie's
for 30 years and says
customers never complain.
Prices go up when costs go up
and customers understand but
they like to moan because it's
the fashionable thing to do.
I ask Nina about Charlie,
for whom the diner is named.
She says she never met him
but folks still come in and say
Charlie said to feed them
and to put it on the cuff.
They’ll pay the bill later.
She laughs and tells them
Charlie hasn’t told her that yet.
And it’s no wonder, Nina says.
Charlie died 40 years ago,
the week the diner opened.
He was a quiet mynah bird,
never said a word.