Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Poetry By Former South Sider Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney, son of immigrants, grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago during WWII and the Korean War. Unlike his peers, he was no good with tools. Books and school were his ticket out of the neighborhood but emotionally he has never left it as indicated in the first poem, “A Chance to Say Good-Bye,” which in much of its detail is true and autobiographical. Mahoney knew the kids he writes about in that poem. Later he worked many years as a print editor with folks who wore suits and ties. Emotionally he was never a fit but his claim to fame and a bit of job security was that he could spell “ukulele” and other odd words seldom used before Spell Check and computers came on the scene. He never had a job he really liked but five kids get hungry and they too wanted to go to school and they did, thanks to jobs Mahoney never really liked. He’s happy now to be retired.

A Chance to Say Good-Bye

After World War II 
before television, 
before women had tattoos
before men wore earrings, 
I was a child in a world
with kids as odd as me.
I’m still here but tell me
where are they?

Remember Joey Joey
who yelped in class 
every day before 
doctors knew the nature 
of his problem, his
barbaric yawps scaring girls 
and driving boys down 
on their desks laughing
until the day he disappeared.
I had no chance to say good-bye.

Can’t forget Petey, the toughest kid
in class, not quite right either.
He uppercut a girl in the third row 
and disappeared the same day.
So did Bobby, who my mother saw 
on his porch eating worms
one by one off a porcelain dish
as she was coming home from church 
under a parasol, stylish in that era.
She asked if Bobby and I were friends 
and I said, “Bobby Who?"
I had no chance to say good-bye. 

But Jimmy was the nonpareil
when it came to kids not right.
I saw him after graduation leap-frog 
parking meters like a kangaroo 
down 63rd Street for half a block
woofing as he cleared them
until the cops took him home.
I had no chance to say good-bye.

They locked Jimmy in the attic
of his parents’ house for years 
but at least he didn’t disappear.
Years later I saw him in a dark bar 
with his twin brother drinking beer. 
He sat quietly, not a single woof,
not a bar stool threatened by a leap.
There I had a chance to say good-bye.

Donal Mahoney

CEOs and Hogs

You have to have regulations
in any industry, the hog farmer 
told the slaughter house CEO 
visiting his farm that day.
Otherwise raising hogs
or slaughtering them
would never work,
the farmer said.

Hogs are honest animals
he told the CEO, but they 
must be fenced or they’ll 
run wild and eat everything. 
You can’t have hogs
rooting where they please.

You’re here today to see
how well we raise our hogs.
In a way you regulate us 
as does the government.
Someone has to regulate
the slaughter houses too. 
I’m sure you get inspections.
Otherwise, hogs would take over
but not the kind you get from us.

Donal Mahoney

Big Meeting at the Corporate Office

When a young woman like that
sails into the conference room, 
all masts billowing, 
there's nothing the men 
around the table can do 
except take a breath 

and wait for her 
to settle in her chair, 
open her laptop 
and fuss for a moment 
with some errant hair 

before she fixes her stare 
on the podium to wait
for the chairman to arrive 
and take it from there

if he possibly can. 
The chairman won't know 
the young woman has said
everything his men 
will remember tomorrow
without saying a word.

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