The last visitor before I sleep
is always the old priest
puffing up the stairs to my door,
a wine cask under each arm,
a loaf of pumpernickel in his teeth.
He’s always too late to give the last rites,
and even though I’m usually dead by then,
it falls to me to console him.
So I say, “Father, Father,
you don’t have to hurry.
Faith is no longer a klieg.
It’s a night light left burning all day,
and its bulb is hissing.”
—first appeared in Commonweal Magazine, 2009
Those Poems, That Fire
I stood in the alley, still
in pajamas, somebody’s shoes,
another man’s coat, my eyes
on the bronc of the hoses.
Squawed in the blankets of neighbors,
my wife and three children sipped
chocolate, stood orange and still.
Of the hundred or more I had stored
in a drawer, I could remember,
comma for comma, no more than four,
none of them final,
all of them fetal.
—first appeared in Four Quarters, 1971
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His work has appeared in The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, Revival (Ireland), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other national and international publications.