Monday, 13 February 2017

Life in the Air by J.D. DeHart



Of course, it did not start out this way. I was a tender shoot, what you might call a really solid branch. Three times, birds built a nest on me. I grew so monumental, I even had a kid try to stand on me. He fell and knocked the wind out of himself, but just the same. These are the kind of bragging rights not all of us have.

Imagine my surprise and reluctance when I felt myself joining the earth. Three, maybe four, villagers swooped around me and separated my form, along with many others, from the trunk. I really miss being part of that trunk.

They pared me down, sliding a blade to smooth my surface, and then whittled even further. They are trying to pick their teeth, I thought. I imagined myself being forced against enamel and pink, diseased gum, prying free pieces of beef. Not the kind of life plan I had in place, if you know what I mean.

So, you can probably guess the rest. What you might not know is that, in history, the warrior is given the medal. The mode of victory is often an afterthought, and by that I mean the weapon of choice. If it is the first time that weapon is used, sure.

We know that the Chinese invented gunpowder, and it is also thought that the crossbow originated in ancient Asia – the bronze triggers. It is easy to find out that the term “grenade” goes back to the 1500’s.

Nevertheless, I was consumed with flame and then launched through the air. I felt the exhilaration of the wind increasing my heat. I would love to say I found my home in some screaming warlord or the Great Scumbag of the Universe (whoever that may be). I ultimately found my home, deflected from metal and then landing in some straw. The straw, of course, caught the flame, and the flame caused the smoke, which allowed the enemy army to be overpowered.

But sure, sure, give credit to the general. Let’s see him light up and go flying.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

My Parents Were Illegal Irish Immigrants in the United States by Donal Mahoney

Joseph Francis O'Mahony, first row, third from left, circa 1920, age 16, all dressed up and looking older than 16 as a prisoner of the English on Spike Island a few years before he emigrated to the United States. There he became a citizen and the judge told him to change his name to Mahoney, a decision he would bemoan like a banshee for years. Permission to use this photo has been obtained from the Waterford County Museum in Ireland.


In 1920, my father, 16, was a guest of the British government. He was a prisoner of their forces occupying Ireland at the time, a group called the Black and Tans.

One day he and seven other prisoners were brought out of their makeshift cells to dig their own graves in a small walled compound. As tradition would have it, they would be shot into their graves and other prisoners would be brought out to bury them.

By prearranged signal, the eight men dropped their shovels and broke for the wall. Bullets stopped five of them but the other three climbed over the wall and made it through the rural Irish countryside to freedom. One of the escapees eventually went to Australia, another to Canada. My father made it to America.

The story doesn’t end there, of course, and he only told it once. But even if you were only in eighth grade, as I was at the time, it’s not a story you forget.

Ironically, his first job in America was digging graves in New Jersey. Then he boxed professionally in New York and sang in Irish nightclubs. He never drank. He was an odd fellow in that respect and perhaps in some others as well.

After another boxer broke his nose he stopped fighting and emigrated from New York, this time to Chicago, where without skills or experience he was hired by the Commonwealth Edison Company. He spent 35 years there as an electrical lineman who specialized as a troubleshooter called out during big storms whenever they occurred anywhere in the State of Illinois. He had to retire earlier than he would have liked after absorbing 12,000 volts of electricity trying to save a rookie he was training from touching the hot wire that got him.

At some point Joseph Francis O’Mahony, a native of Ballyheigue, County Kerry, met and married my mother, Mary Therese Roche, an illegal immigrant from Togher, Cork. She arrived in 1926 or so, got off the boat and found herself, for reasons she could never recall, in the middle of Harlem among the first black people she had ever seen. They helped her locate her cousin elsewhere in New York. In time she used her cousin's paperwork to find jobs cleaning the houses of others who could afford to hire her.

My father, apparently illegal as well, didn’t stop for documentation, perhaps because the Black and Tans might have delayed his trip had they found him.

My mother was reared in rural Ireland with eight siblings in a thatched-roof cottage in the middle of a cabbage field. An English landlord owned the field.

My mother didn’t know she needed papers to come to America. She had just grown weary of harvesting cabbage and thought she might try her luck in America. Apparently she had no problem getting on the boat.

These two illegal immigrants had a good if not perfect life in Chicago compared with the life they might have had if they had remained in Ireland.

My father earned good money as an electrician and saved a lot of it to make it possible for his son to earn two degrees. He and my mother died, however, before seeing their first grandson, Sean Owen Mahoney, win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.

It’s just as well because my father would have been very unhappy to have a grandson studying in England.

Almost as unhappy as he was to learn many years earlier that he had spent all his hard-earned money to send his own son, the author of this piece, to a university and have him come home with two degrees in English, of all things.

Once again my father had proof that life isn’t fair.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

notes by Mark Young



Discovered a chilli plant growing in the back yard. Orange turning to red. A birdseye, high heat. Last year they were growing wild in the front garden. Pulled out the plants. Kept the fruit. The freezer contains a ziplok bag full of them. A little chilli goes a long way.

Two rainbow bee-eaters on a branch. A member of the kingfisher family but very different in colour, in contour of beak. Still, they have that kingfisher / kookaburra feel about them.

I am waiting for the electrician & the plumber to come. Maybe I can ring up a mechanic, say the car has broken down, & hold a trade convention.

Break off reading Ed Sanders' Tales of Beatnik Glory – a little of that goes a long way too — & start reading a Val McDermid novel, The Torment of Others, one of the series of Tony Hill / Carol Jordan mysteries. I enjoyed the BBC TV series but the books are blacker, more graphic, & I'm enjoying them more. What does that say about me? The title of this one comes from a quote by he whom Paul Blackburn called the preacher, T.S.E., tse-tse fly, from The Dry Salvages.

I bring in the washing. It starts to rain. Now there's a change in the normal order of things.

My legs ache. Age. Arthritis. My left kneecap clacks like Philly Joe Jones in behind Miles Davis. So What perhaps. I run the Cannonball Adderley solo through my mind. It helps, but it doesn't hide the pain. Aspirin works better, though it hasn't the same rhythm. Or the phrasing.

Am assuming birds broadcast the chilli seed, but how can they stand the heat, not that they're ever in the kitchen. Though, reading about the bee-eaters, I learn that they render the sting harmless & kill the bee before swallowing it. Maybe birds render chillies harmless with a garnish of ice-cold water.

That reminds me. I take some soluble aspirin, in a glass of warm water to make the tablets dissolve faster. The plumber arrives. & goes fifteen minutes after. Paid by the hour. My kneecap still clicks but the ache has gone. I make lunch. Afterwards go outside. Click. Now that I am aware of it, my eye is automatically drawn to the orange of the chilli amongst the brown & green & purple of the garden. Click. The bee-eaters have gone. The electrician is still to show.

*****

Mark Young lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, & has been publishing poetry for almost sixty years. He is the author of over thirty-five books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are Mineral Terpsichore & Ley Lines, both from gradient books of Finland, & The Chorus of the Sphinxes, from Moria Books in Chicago.

Friday, 30 December 2016

To Peel or Not To Peel by A.J. Huffman



“I am sorry the pears weren’t
pre-ordered,” said the woman
with the plastic shoe box full
of green and yellow, lined
end to stem.  A tiny mass coffin
for wayward fruit.  “They have
to go.”  Unchecked,
she carried them, a sole pallbearer,
to the trash.  No
ceremony, no speech.  Just plunk
and slam.  As the lid
closed on their lives we returned
to the mundane chores of ours.

*****

A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, thirteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses.  Her most recent releases, The Pyre On Which Tomorrow Burns (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers.  She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2600 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Body Talk by John Grey

Encyclopædia Britannica
eye embedded in the mossy rock rings
tear evaporates from pebbled paths
tongue, enemy and friend of mankind
back of the neck, purveyor of sunstroke
heart-beat, a fleeting nod to life and death
saliva, a sea stemmed by lips,
brain, epitome of cramped quarters or the
computer company itself
thoughts, a Jewish man engaged in rapid conversation
with a Dominican woman
memory, a sound obsessed with its own history
hands, pincers for the workingman's soul
fingers drumming the tireless tracks
thumb, the baton, palm, the Gypsy storyteller
elbows, part of the outline that holds me in place
shoulders, a fifty year old magpie nest
arms, individual pieces of business
armpits, jungle home of Tarzan, lord of the apes
breast takes its turns beating, feeding
nipple, the shiniest bauble
lungs, in their application, circle the wagons of black wind
chest (see dead man's) yo ho ho and a bottle of...
thorax by Doctor Seuss, navel by an orange
pubis, the God of porn
penis, forever seventeen years old or a fragile jetty .
where the moon docks,
buttocks imitate the swell of two bellies
legs, begging weary ice-shapes
knees, the last resort of unintentional foreplay
toes, the hiding place of lesser molecules -
next stop, the insides -

hands up those who thought they were already there

*****

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Jesus, Can We Talk? by Donal Mahoney

Crijn Hendricksz.jpeg
By Crijn Hendricksz. Volmarijn (circa 1601–1645)

Jesus, can we talk? Some folks say you're coming back any day now but many of them have been saying that for years. They say it could happen tomorrow, or maybe next week, and they've already put their affairs in order. They believe they will be swept up and taken into heaven, leaving many others on the ground, just standing there, slack-jawed and staring at all the backsides rising in the air.

I'd like to among those rising but my Baptist barber says he doesn't think papists will be issued passports for this trip. I've been his customer for 30 years so he plans to take a rope along and drop it down to me. If I grab hold and can hang on, he says I'm welcome to come along if Jesus doesn't cut me loose. I may be a papist, he says, but he knows from all our haircut debates over the years that I believe in Jesus and the bible as the inerrant Word of God. He even tells his Baptist and Four Square Gospel customers I'm okay, theologically speaking.

I keep telling him papists believe in Jesus just as strongly as he does. But that's not what he heard about Catholics growing up in the Ozarks as a child. What's more, since I grew up in Chicago, I talk kind of funny, he says. I always tell him I can sound just like him with a mouth full of cornbread.

In the meantime, Jesus, I need a favor on different matter entirely. I'm hoping you'll find time to make a quick visit to the house of a friend of mine around midnight any night of the week. He's been retired for many years and he's enjoying the fruits of his considerable labors. As I often remind him, he's enjoying the fruits of your favors as well. But he doesn't see it that way, necessarily, if you want to know the truth.

As I see it, you've been very good to this man for more than 70 years but now he needs a different kind of help. Like me, he's old enough to find himself any day now next up in the checkout line. But he talks as though the life we both enjoy has no end in sight. If he didn't live in a far-away city, I'd take him for a haircut at my barber's shop and there he would hear the truth with a little cornbread on the side.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't want to see my friend turn Baptist, not that there's anything wrong with Baptists, as Seinfeld might say. I just want him to get back to Mass every Sunday morning before someone has to push him down the aisle in a wheelchair. He has a lot to be thankful for and maybe not a whole lot of time to say thanks.

You see, he was a high school graduate who became a paratrooper during the Korean War. After he was discharged he found a job as a janitor. In no way dumb, he used diligence and brains to become vice-president of the same company in ten years. He got there by being a good salesman of condiments. The man can talk but then a lot of Irish-American papists can talk. Maybe we can't yodel like the Swiss but we can certainly talk.

Not satisfied with being president of that company, he quit and started his own company. He decided to manufacture and sell products that were just catching on when Woodstock was all the rage. You remember Woodstock. That's where all the musicians and Hippies showed up on a water-logged farm in the Catskills in 1969 to celebrate free love and other developments in society at that time.

In any event, my friend figured that supplying health food to vegans and vegetarians would be a gold mine in the future and it turned out he was right. This is a guy who spent his adolescence at White Castle restaurants eating double cheeseburgers by the sack. It must have taken a conversion experience akin to the one Saul of Tarsus had to get him to try health food. I'm not sure he eats that much of it himself but he sure can sell it.

Thirty years later, with his kids reared and on their own, he sold his company for seven million dollars. I haven't asked him yet if he had any outside help in his success or if he did it all by himself.

He still believed in you while the company was growing but I don't know what happened after that. He's a good man, basically. He has the same wife now as when he was a janitor, a big bunch of kids now grown up and doing well and a flock of grandkids who adore him. Excess of any kind has never been a problem with him. He simply lost his faith somewhere along the road to becoming a millionaire. Other millionaires have followed the same path, I imagine, but I have never known any others, personally.

Many decades ago in grammar school, he and I were always in the same grade and we both believed, without any doubt, that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead and opened the gates of heaven for the likes of us and maybe for the likes of the worst of us if they shaped up in time. Now my friend is living the good life but says he doesn't know if you exist or if you died on the cross or if you rose from the dead. He says he'd like to believe in you but he needs some evidence. Otherwise, he says he'll remain an agnostic, a word he says means "I don't know."

Well, Jesus, I don't think his problem is a simple one. First he has to come to believe in God again, a belief some philosophers say a man can reach through reason alone. After all, there are the five proofs for the existence of God that many philosophers accept. But then he has to come to believe again in Jesus Christ--that God sent his only begotten Son to die on the cross for the sins of all mankind. That's the hard part. He can't do that through reason alone. That takes faith, the gift you gave to both of us, the gift he lost and I somehow retained despite being no better than he is.

Jesus, this man is 77 years old so perhaps you can sense the urgency of my request. There's not much time for him to believe again unless, of course, you step in.
That's why I'd like you to drop by his mansion some midnight when you have some free time. Just pull him out of bed by the ankles and hold him upside down for awhile before you introduce yourself. Then tell him you are Jesus Christ, a native of Bethlehem with strong ties to Galilee and Nazareth. Remind him about what you did with the loaves and fishes at Cana and ask him if he sees any parallels to that event in his own life. My hope is that before you leave, or shortly thereafter when someone revives him, he will find that he has the gift of faith again.

You see, I don't know how he lost his faith but I can't find it for him. The nuns who schooled us in the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ have been dead for many years. There are a couple of them who might have been able to turn him around. They had a way of making you see the truth. It's amazing how quickly you can see the truth clearly when an old-style nun in a big habit takes time to explain everything half an inch from your nose.

In any event, you gave both of us the gift of faith in 1938, the year of our Baptism, and I somehow still have my faith, despite not leading a noble life. I mean I was honest and was never arrested but there might be a lady or more who would take a bumbershoot to my backside if she ran into me, even at my age.

My friend, on the other hand, has done everything according to the book but he no longer reads the book. So, please, drop by his place some midnight before he dies and yank him out of bed by the ankles. Let him know who you are and mention that you look forward to seeing him at Mass on Sunday. Remind him that he can get a spiritually nutritious bite to eat at any Catholic church in the world in case he still likes to travel. Food that will stick to his soul for the long road ahead.

By the way, this man can afford to tithe, big-time. Even though papists don't tithe the way Protestants do, they nevertheless give a ton of money to charities managed by the Church and other not-for-profit organizations. But it's probably best if we don't mention his ability to tithe to my Baptist barber. He might be tempted to get on a plane and go see if my friend needs a trim.

*****

Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for U.S. Catholic Magazine, Loyola University Press, and The Chicago Sun-Times. Retired now, he keeps busy writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. One of the most important aspects of “freedom” for him is freedom of religion and the opportunity in the United States to practice it or not practice it. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Operative by JD DeHart




spy in my own life,
uncertain of what side
I am on, agent/counter-agent.
not sure what the sides
even represent.
both parties sound the same
after so much rhetoric.
there is a beautiful dangerous
woman who turns out to be
nothing but an ordinary seamstress.
she owns lots of kittens.
not real cats, but objects made
in their round little shape.
the nefarious villain with the plan
for domination turns out to
not unlike myself.