A Shining Star At Every Wake

Donal Mahoney

A Shining Star at Every Wake

Bill hates to go to parties but he loves to go to wakes. One of the advantages of being old, he says, is that there are fewer parties to go to but a lot more wakes.

At parties he finds a distant corner, stands there like a sentinel and watches the young folks have fun.

“At parties the young move among each other like bees among flowers,” Bill says. “When I was young I tried to find the right flower and hover there, if you know what I mean.”

Although he doesn’t approach anyone to start a conversation, Bill’s not upset when people approach him. Some young folks want to know why is the old guy standing in the corner. And he doesn’t hesitate to tell them.

“I came with my wife,” he says. “She’s out on the floor somewhere having a good time.”

Moments later, he adds the obvious: “She’s an extrovert and I’m not.”

At parties Bill and his wife always slow dance at least once even though he says he has two left feet. He says that after 50 years of marriage, his wife’s used to having her feet under his. He says she never complains. She loves parties and is happy that he’s willing to come along, even if it’s only to stand in a corner.

At wakes, however, Bill comes out of his shell. He’s in his element at wakes.

“I’m the life of the party at a wake,” Bill says, “if you’ll excuse the expression.”

His modus operandi at a wake isn’t complex. First he consoles the bereaved and then talks to anyone and everyone who has come to the wake. When Bill has finished his rounds, everyone, even the dead person’s kin, feel a little better.

“Bill should have been an undertaker,” his wife says, coming back from the dance floor.

Bill says he would have been an undertaker but in most states you have to be an embalmer to qualify as an undertaker.

“Embalming is not a trade I ever wanted to learn,” Bill says. “But I don’t have to be an embalmer to help people feel a little better at a wake.”

Several years ago, a friend of Bill’s lost his wife and Bill, of course, went to the wake.

He was talking to the widower when a lady walked up, interrupted them and said to the widower,

“I know you’re not ready to date, but when you are so inclined, I would like to throw my hat in the ring.”

Bill and the widower were shocked, but later the widower dated the woman and married her. In a relatively short time, she spent most of his money and then divorced him when he got sick. He died a year later very much alone.

Had Bill known his friend was sick, he would have tried to supply him with support. He has great empathy for the dying as well as for those mourning the dead.

Going to wakes reminds Bill that some day he will be the guest of honor at his own wake. He has mixed feelings about that.

“I don’t know if there is ever a perfect person for someone,” Bill says, “but my wife is the only one for me.”

He thinks it’s selfish to want to die first but that is his wish. He doesn’t want to live without his wife by his side.

“She’s my North Star….my compass,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to dance on anyone else’s feet.”

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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 http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

Five Poems

Donal Mahoney

Never Is the Best Time

November’s lovely in the rain, she says
from her rocker near the window
to no one in particular although

the butler’s waiting for her grocery list
having walked her Pekingese.
She hopes to see December

and her neighbors hoisting snow
and she wants to see April’s tulips
although her doctor doesn’t know.

She hopes to see the sunflowers
and this is why she tells the butler
never is the best time to die.

 

Confetti Waiting for a Parade

As autumn turns colder
there’s only one moth
fluttering at midnight

around the porch light.
He’s the last of the flock
that danced all summer

in the glow of the night.
Confetti that never fell
on a holiday parade.

 

A Red Kettle Crisis

No red kettles and bells
this December outside
the stores at the mall

in our suburbs this year.
They irritate shoppers,
the business article says.

So folks will keep their bills
as usual but now they can’t
get rid of their change.

 

An Old Bachelor Reflects

He should have married someone,
James tells himself at 80
coughing in bed with the flu.

He remembers very well
that Miranda was a nice girl.
She’d bring him coffee now

and April would too and then
she’d go and find his paper
hiding somewhere in the snow.

Jane wouldn’t get his coffee
and wouldn’t find his paper.
But love wasn’t enough.

 

Bulbs Alive

A doctor by day
Ralph spends his nights
ordering tulip bulbs

from Holland
beautiful and rare
to arrive in autumn

to plant and think about
for months ahead until
spring arrives and the

tulips become a rainbow
beautiful in his garden.
Ralph talks about tulips

at the office every day
where he pulls small bulbs
from the gardens of patients.

Unlike his tulips
those bulbs don’t grow,
never become a rainbow.

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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 http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

 

 

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.

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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 http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html