Wednesday, April 16, 2014

M. Krockmalnik Grabois

Five Poems

MAYTAG

My car
the Marvelous Maytag
churns like a washer in an unending cycle
agitating clothes from coast to coast

My girlfriend sits beside me
flexing her muscles
and tracing the lines of her tattoos

I regret breaking her out of prison
It wasn’t a big deal—minimum security
the same thing I get from her
That’s all I want
I don’t even want that much

People magazines
and empty cans of Red Bull
litter the back seat

I’m taking the Marvelous Maytag
demo derby
That’s the only foreseeable way
out of this life

TANGLE

I had to extricate myself
from the tangle of pathologies
that held my brother Allen to his wife

Their toxicity was contagious
like second hand smoke
or influenza

But when my sister-in-law broke
a decorative ceramic squirrel over Allen’s head
and stabbed him with a sharp shard
I found myself back in the fray

Allen showed up at my door
needing a place to “hang”
and I couldn’t say no

His wife followed him, of course
furious that he’d called 911
and she’d been arrested

It was a matter of survival, he told her
as she stood outside the door
It was a matter of survival for me too, she replied
Her psychology was infantile
and this was how she invariably handled conflict
by turning around what was dished to her
and feeding it back

I asked: Your survival depended
on him bringing home a six-pack?
He promised, she answered

It was cold that night
below freezing
and now that I’d dared challenge her
she felt justified in pushing her way in

They began battling again
My wife, Amy, got angry
Before we met she’d been an MP in the army
Allen’s wife had either forgotten that
or never knew it
Amy threw them out

We watched them skulk down the sidewalk together
heads down
plotting revenge

UPSTAIRS WINDOW

The girl sits in the upstairs window
holding a green balloon
green as grass green as money

Earlier in the day
the girl’s father jumped out this same window
and killed himself

No one believed he could kill himself by jumping out
the second floor window of an English country cottage
but he was a ballet dancer in his youth
and learned body positioning and control

He was melancholy
because his daughter’s balloon was green as grass
green as money
but he couldn’t afford to send her to private school
and believed that if she attended the village school
she would become a dolt

and marry a dolt
who chewed like a cow
and whose father was a pastor
but who had an impressive dick
(he once chanced to see it)
which caused his stupid daughter
to lose herself in distasteful fantasies

The roof line of the cottage
is an inverted ‘L’
and he felt it accused him of being a Loser

Every inanimate and animate thing
accused him thus
and he couldn’t take the truth
that he was a bad father
and a bad husband
which is why his wife had died
and left his daughter half an orphan

The girl has her own delusions:
that her father has not killed himself at all
but only pretended

and will come back and play chess with her again
and put shaving cream on her green balloon
and shave it

GEESE

The security of Target’s card-swipe machine
was compromised
and seventy million people clog the corporate phone lines
terrified that Christmas will be followed by
Identity Theft

Meanwhile, a phalanx of geese
who live across the street
at Slone’s Lake Park
make their determined way through the
Target parking lot

causing consternation among drivers
who are mostly drunk
or at least buzzed
They don’t want the soul of a goose
against them
in this sacred season

The geese head for the front door
The electric eye finds them
and the doors swish open

The geese pass the Customer Service Desk
without a look in that direction

Their sliding steps on the polished linoleum
reminds them of sliding across the ice
of Sloan’s Lake

They don’t know why they’ve come
or what they’re looking for
but they’re confident they’ll find it

THE UnNIN

You cannot save people
you can only love them
--Anais Nin

Or you can hate them
for inflicting themselves on you
--Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

© M. Krockmalnik Grabois 2014

M. Krockmalnik Grabois’ poems have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, including MUDJOB. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story “Purple Heart” published in The Examined Life in 2012, and for his poem. “Birds,” published in The Blue Hour, 2013. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John Grey

Three Poems

THE STRUGGLE TO BE A LOVE POEM

Hold this thought... love...

is that a roach I see stepping out
for some clandestine relationship
with the grit beneath the stove

& have you seen this month's
electric bill
or the second gray hair in my head

&what about
the tiny missives the dog left
in the parlor
on the kitchen floor

yes Yorkies are adorable
but shit is historically
lacking in admirers

&from historic
to hysteric
over... what was it last time...
the air in the tire?

no, the visit from my mother
or was it your mother
or a stranger's mother
but who can tell the difference these days

&the roach is dancing and singing
a medley from "Top Hat" on the sideboard

&there's a crack in the wall
from one more failed picture hanging
&the picture we did hang right
we both hate anyway

are you still holding that thought?

& the meals
I undercook crap
you burn crap

& that may be your favorite song
but it's a dirge if you must know
&why can I never find the Zappa l.p.s
yes the scratchy ones I've owned for centuries

that's right centuries
you know what a century is?
it's a year living with somebody

& let's not forget the dirty laundry
with our nostrils
we don't have to

or the rumbled attempts at drunken sex
last night
or was it the night before

&the last time we ate out
lousy Italian
and sauce down my shirt

I hope you're holding that thought
because, if you're not...

anyway, if we ever recorded that roach
we could make a killing
if it doesn't spread enough disease
to kill us first

&what about morning breath
or the morning puffiness of eyes
or the morning pissed off about just about everything

but I have faith
faith that you can hold a thought
even if the roach
is doing the samba
on your toes

la cucaracha la cucaracha

in case you don't remember
the thought for today is love

BATTERED WOMAN

One day, you will know what men can do to women.
A female friend will call you, late at night,

pleading, "Come over. I need someone to talk to."
You'll sit with her in the kitchen, sipping coffee,

saying, for the fiftieth time, "Should I call an ambulance.
Should I call the cops." She'll say, "No. Please.

I don't want to make trouble. "Then what do you. do.
You're not a doctor. You're not the law. And you're

afraid your sympathies are not enough to soothe
one bruise, heal even the slightest of cuts.

And who says he won't do this to her again.
You're not a fortune teller. You don't even ask her

...if you should call one.

WINTER FLOWERS

Winter flowers I have to myself,
in a room kept hot, with my nose bent
into all their selfish splendor.
The snow outside can't sniff my pink carnations.
Bitter wind is not to know the jewels
of red and white and sun-like yellow.
Nor the people who trudge down the street,
all rugged up in their jackets and long-Johns.
Not even the ones who knock at my door,
want to read the meter, take a survey,
or sell me something.
At best, I'll sit them in the kitchen
where nothing is alive.
But I will never show what I have growing
when all else in the world is dead and buried.
Family have tried to see. So have strange men
with nothing better to do but think that love exists
beyond the hoary age of sixty.
Love is just what people thought they could grow
in frozen soil in the last days of December.
But beauty, I know all about beauty.
It blooms. It blossoms. Just don't expect me to share it with you.


© John Grey 2014

John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in The Lyric, Stoneboat and US1 Worksheets with work upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Natural Bridge, Southern California Review and Soundings East.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Donal Mahoney

A Disgusting Thing

It's a disgusting thing but Paddy Gilhooley, who knew better as a child, had begun farting in church very early in life. He started in grammar school, many decades ago, long before the nuns selected him in fourth grade to be an altar boy to serve Mass.

The Mass was then said in Latin with the altar boys' responses also said in Latin. The nuns picked Paddy because he was tall and was able to memorize things rapidly. By training him in fourth grade, the nuns believed Paddy would be able to serve Mass for the next four years till he graduated from grammar school.

Paddy was less than thrilled to be singled out for this honor. He had nothing against God or the Mass but he knew that fourth-grade altar boys were always assigned to serve the Mass at 6:30 a.m., way too early in the day for Paddy.

Being selected to be an altar boy, however, helped Paddy's grades even if more than once the nuns had to summon his father to the school about some aspect of his behavior that did not live up to the code at St. Nicholas of Tolentine School.

St. Nick's was a fine school whose mission was to educate the children of immigrants whose fathers had jobs good enough to buy small bungalows in the neighborhood known as Chicago Lawn. This was back in the 1940s when food was cheap, houses were cheap and salaries were commensurately low.

Most of the immigrants were from European countries--Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Italy and Ireland. Parents were interested in their children getting an education good enough for them to pass the entrance exam at one of the parochial high schools in Chicago. These high schools were renowned for offering college preparatory curricula. Tuition was around $250 a year. That was a big sum in those days but Paddy Gilhooley's father, an electrician, and a non-drinking Irishman, had already saved the $1,000 required for Paddy's four years of high school. Now Mr. Gilhooley was saving to send Paddy to college.

Paddy's father wanted the best for his son. Once he had enough money put aside for Paddy's college education, he planned to save more money to put him through law school. Mr. Gilhooley didn't emigrate from Ireland to have his son work with his hands. No sir, his son would go to law school and work with his mind. That much was settled.

Paddy, however, was a bit of a scamp when no one was looking. He discovered early on, for example, that one way to square the score with the nuns who required good behavior at all times was to fart in church, preferably in serial fashion, one missile after another, silent but, as his classmates aways said, deadly.

He started doing this in first grade when he had to sit with his classmates in one of the first three rows in church. These were the pews reserved for the first-graders at the Children's Mass. Right behind the first graders were three rows of second graders. And behind them, three rows of third graders--and so on. The procession continued, three rows at a time, all the way back to the eighth graders who occupied their own three rows in the rear.

The eighth graders were monitored carefully by the nuns. One false move and any miscreant child would be led by the ear out into the foyer of the church, where he--and it was always a boy--was dealt with summarily by the principal, usually the toughest nun in the convent at the time and always an immigrant from Ireland. In fact, the whole convent consisted of 16 nuns imported from Ireland to deal with these children of immigrants who were not, by any means, a refined group. Quite the contrary.

Paddy realized the nuns were only doing their job--trying to maintain order in God's House. But he enjoyed getting involved in devilment and looked forward to being in eighth grade when he'd be able to sit in the rear of the church where the nuns kept a close eye on boys like Paddy, most of them feisty to a fault, ready to do anything at times to create a little commotion.

In first grade Wally learned early on that farting in church was especially troublesome to his classmates, especially the girls who seldom if ever misbehaved. It took awhile for the nuns to identify which child was stinking up the first three pews at the Children's Mass. But when several little girls sitting behind Paddy began pointing at him, the jig, so to speak, was up. Sister Mary Lorraine led Paddy down the aisle by the ear and placed him in the custody of the principal, Sister Marie Patrick, a stout bullet of a woman who did not suffer misbehavior happily.

"Why did you do that, Paddy, at Mass, especially? Surely, you must know better. Your parents will not be happy when I tell them."

Paddy, though only seven years old, had learned to keep a straight face and deny anything he was accused of. But it didn't help that despite great efforts by his mother, there was no way to comb his hair since it featured seven cowlicks--the barber had counted them for his curious mother. She had tried gobs of the most popular hair tonic of the day, Wildroot Creme Oil, but the cowlicks always popped up, often in the middle of Mass and just about the time Paddy would let the first of several farts fly.

"Sister, I didn't do nothin' at all," Paddy finally said. "I think it must have been Stanley. He eats Polish sausage and sauerkraut. Ask him."

But Sister Marie Patrick knew better so she led Paddy into the little office in the back of the church until Mass was over. Then she waited by the doorway to see Paddy's parents after Mass so she could discuss the problem with them. She really didn't know what to say to them but she figured it out by the time Mass was over.

Upon hearing of the charge against Paddy, Mr. Gilhooley, in his best suit and tie, was outraged. How could anyone, especially a nun from Ireland, say a thing like that about Paddy, who was going to law school in a few years.

Paddy himself, standing off to the side and watching the proceedings, enjoyed everything immensely but kept a stoic face. Even at this age, with his spectacles always slightly askew, he looked a little like a very young James Joyce or maybe George Bernard Shaw.

He never smiled or laughed when he was in the vicinity of people of authority, especially his father or the nuns. His mother had seen him smile several times and had told his father that Paddy was not as serious a child as his father thought a lawyer-to-be should be.

Finally, however, Sr. Marie Patrick, after mentioning to Mr. Gilhooley that she was from the same county in Ireland that he was, convinced him that indeed Paddy had been stinking up the front of the church during Mass.

"Where did he learn such behavior," Sister asked Mr. Gilhooley, who said he had no idea and looked at Mrs. Gilhooley, who knew full well that young Paddy had grown up in a home where his father not only farted with bravado but also used to sing, after each fart, an old ditty that was famous in the neighborhood:

"Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot."

Mr. Gilhooley was especially apt to fart and sing on Saturday afternoons while listening to the radio as Notre Dame stomped on some lesser foe in a football game. The more points Notre Dame would score, the more Mr. Gihooley would fart and sing.

And when Paddy's mother would complain that her husband was setting a bad example for Paddy, Mr. Gilhooley would explain once again how many farting matches he had won as a young man in Ireland. As the story would have it, Mr. Gilhooley would show up at the pub for the matches held late on a Saturday night. His presence was frowned upon because he didn't drink anything stronger than ginger ale.

Finally, Mr. Gilhooley decided to agree with Sr. Marie Patrick that young Paddy was guilty of what might not be a mortal sin but certainly qualified as a venial sin at the very least. He was also afraid his wife, an innocent woman if ever there was one, might pipe up and say Paddy had learned to fart from his father while they listened to Notre Dame games on the big console radio in the living room.

"Sister, I tell you this," Mr. Gihooley said. "If Paddy ever farts in church again, you smack him with that ruler of yours right across his keister and don't stop till the little bugger starts crying. Then you call me about it and when he gets home, I'll wallop him again. You and I will put a stop to this once and for all. Paddy is going to be a lawyer and no Irish lawyer farts in church."

Sr. Marie Patrick appeared mollified and released Paddy to his parents. His father led him out of the church by the ear for the long walk home. Paddy knew what he was in for once they got there. His father would take him to the attic door and open it and show him the big black belt that hung drooping from a hook. Mr. Gilhooley had even spliced the end of the belt so it would look like a serpent's tongue.

Whenever Paddy acted up around the house, Mr. Gilhooley would take the belt off the hook, wrap it around his fist and smack the tongue of the belt against his palm while telling Paddy if he ever did it again--whatever it was the boy had done on that occasion--the belt would be applied to his keister till he couldn't sit for a month. Paddy would immediately show sheer terror and say that he would never do whatever it was again.

Year later, Paddy, now a retired attorney, could laugh about all this as he told the story to his grandchildren. It was especially funny to Paddy because his father never hit him with the belt even though Sr. Marie Patrick had called his father several times to report that Paddy had continued to fart, albeit in the classroom and not in church.

Notre Dame in those years won several national football championships. As a result, Mr. Gilhooley continued to fart proudly and sing his heart out on many Saturday afternoons in autumn.

In eighth grade, Paddy was allowed to join in the farting himself but he would never join in the singing. His mother would never have allowed it. The poor woman couldn't tell one fart from another so she knew nothing about Paddy's participation at that level. But she always told neighbors that when you compared Paddy and his father, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.


© Donal Mahoney 2014

Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/

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