Five Poems

Donal Mahoney

A Quiet Beauty in Gray

The beauty of gray
I never noticed until
the other day I saw

this mockingbird,
a quiet beauty in gray,
on the bare limb

of a dogwood tree,
peer down through snow
and scold below

a Maine Coon cat,
a jungle of fur in gray,
sitting and staring at

a feast that will never be,
the two of them a watercolor
in the quiet beauty of gray.


Answering Machine

My wife’s upset because
I won’t answer the phone
in the middle of the night
even though the phone’s
on my side of the bed.

And I say that’s because after
all these years we both know
whenever the phone rings
in the middle of the night,
someone we know, maybe

someone we love, has
died in an accident or
is lingering in some ER.
That’s why I’d rather
let the message go to

the answering machine
and the two of us
can listen to it there.
It gives me time to stiffen
and my wife time to cry.


Cobra’s Wife

She’s a snake charmer
but doesn’t know it.
That’s why the cobra

married her and has lived
so many years in its basket.
Sometimes he asks her

not to play the flute,
perhaps brush her hair instead,
that lovely waterfall

cascading to her ankles.
Not always wise to play the flute,
although the cobra loves its notes.

No bob and sway for him today.
Instead, the cobra plans to lie
coiled in its basket.


Big Bang for Little Billy

This was the first Christmas
Billy was old enough to speak
when he saw his gifts
under the sparkling tree.
His parents were waiting
to hear what he’d say.
Billy laughed and jumped
and clapped his hands.
With a big smile, he shouted
“Santa brought me these!”
Then Daddy picked Billy up,
bounced him on his knee
and whispered softly,
“There is no Santa, son.
There was a Big Bang
while you were asleep.
And all your gifts landed
under the tree.”


Arson and the Artist

Walt told the cops later
his moods come and go
like crows on the high wire
above his art studio.

They land in a swoop,
caw and fly away,
then reappear on the wire,
caw again the same day.

Walt explained this to J.D.,
the art gallery owner, before
he aimed and cocked his pistol.
J.D.’s apology wasn’t enough

because when he opened his gallery,
he borrowed 17 paintings from Walt
and then burnt the place down
to collect the insurance.

J.D. wanted to pay him off,
Walt told the judge and the jury.
“But money can replace art,” he said
when he appealed the death penalty.

Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at

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