Donal Mahoney

Stranger Comes to Town

Beautiful fall day
in a potter’s field
outside a small town.
A funeral is underway
but that doesn’t stop
the leaves russet and gold
a few still green
falling among the stones
without a name.

The minister reads a verse
over the grave of a man
found by deer hunters.
No idea who he is or
where he came from,
a body dumped.

Four people from
the clapboard church
with the wayward steeple
over the hill gather ’round
heads bowed, hands clasped.

An old worker with a shovel
stands like a soldier
near the shed and
waits for everyone to leave
so he can finish up.
It’s almost lunch time.

One by one cars pull away
and now it’s just us, the dirt
and a gold leaf falling on me.


A Widow and Her Pekingese

Summer evenings
after the news at 6 p.m.
the Widow Murphy comes out

of her tiny bungalow and sits
on her front porch swing
with her ancient Pekingese

yapping mournfully in her lap.
She waves to certain people,
just a few, while ignoring most

although she knows every neighbor
after her long reign on the porch
as the queen of our block.

We live next door but she never
waves to us or says hello to me
not even back when I was 10

and offered to mow her lawn free
for nothing, as I used to put it.
She simply looked away and let

the Pekingese yap her answer.
My father told me then not to worry
about the Widow Murphy’s ways.

Her husband died in Korea, he said.
They never found her son in Viet Nam
and she had a daughter doing life

for murdering a man the jury must
have known had beaten her for years.
The man was her husband and a cop.

Later in my teens my mother said
the Widow Murphy had every right
to be a private person and live out

the remnant of her life as she saw fit.
But when I was 10 cutting our grass,
I thought she was a ventriloquist

and the Pekingese her dummy
yapping for all the world to hear:
Life isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t fair.


Martha and Mel Wait for the Elevator

I died from a rattlesnake bite
and found myself in line with
other zombies in front of a bank
of elevators, the doors opening
and closing as if by metronome.

Every time a door opened a voice
called the names of 12 zombies
who boarded the elevator single file.
As the doors closed, Led Zeppelin
or Bing Crosby played in the background
depending on whether the elevator went
up or down according to the light
winking above the door.

The rest of us waited our turn
as more zombies arrived
and lined up behind us.
I saw no one I knew except
a couple who looked like
Martha Stewart and Mel Brooks
discussing the future.
Mel was on stilts so he looked
Martha straight in the eye.

When the rattlesnake bit me,
Martha and Mel were alive on Earth
so I had no idea why they were there
with us zombies but nevertheless
I listened as Martha told Mel
she didn’t care which way
the elevator went as long as
she found prime rib and a glass
of Dom Pérignon waiting
when she arrived.

Mel didn’t care either, he said,
as long as he found a steamed
Nathan’s Hot Dog with two squirts
of mustard, lots of relish,
raw onion and sport peppers
hotter than hell and a
tankard of seltzer iced.
Seltzer is better, he said,
than Dom Pérignon.
Ask any sommelier.

Another elevator arrived and Martha
and Mel, arm and arm, boarded.
This time I didn’t hear Led Zeppelin
or Bing Crosby in the background.
I saw Martha stare Mel in the eye,
wag her finger and tell him to try
prime rib because too much
cholesterol lurks in hot dogs.
Enough to kill you, she said.

Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize and has appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review and in online journals in the United States and overseas.  Some of his online work can be found at


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Pushcart nominee Jeanette Cheezum has been published on several online writing sites and in fifteen Anthology books and four poetry books. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Awarded The Helium Networks Premium Writer’s Badge, Bronze Creative Writing Award and a Marketplace Writers award. Recently she has published thirteen ebooks at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You may find a list of some of her work at
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