3 poems by Dennis Mahagin

digital collage by D.Enck
digital collage by D.Enck

Doc Williams’ 12-Step Blues

so much, depending

on a frayed
flannel shirt
with sleeves whacked
off, burn marks, buttoned
lopsided, sending

prayers and good thoughts
over the AA meeting

gleaming steely
urns of caffeine

and a voice

of the nineteen year old speaker
starts to break, say
with twelve and a half days

large, scarred hands gripping
the sides of the podium
like a gunwale:

and that’s no sin
in Paterson
where they don’t care
if you shake,

or fail

Why the Snow Geese Talk to Each Other Before the Breeze Shoots Back

The noose of winter hangs
above our heads, as ever; in the anteroom
of the clinic, I waited for my flu shot
and thought to get cozy
with an elderly guy sitting by
and by, a shock of Robert Frost
cowlick, pursed lips plus a shiny cane
he kept strapped to his seated hip
like a sidearm. Moments before,
he’d said to me: “I thought this place
would be already crawling with people …”
My mistake, for it was no kind
of friendly overture
such as I’d engaged before
with often hard or scared but decent people,
chatter-banter at the heights of shallow,
one-upping the gathering
of gallows: so I said, “you here to see
Doc McBride too?” he waited
a beat, before the coldest
reply: “No … .. ” and no
more; no howz about you? only a scowl
I was awfully late for; we sat, awkward
silence that deepened
as dusks do in winter, when I looked
over at him again, he shook
that snowy head, raised his gaze
to meet me in a stare, muttering, “fucking
” — as a nurse called me back
for my flu shot. And if I’d had the time
would have told him simple kindness
is the miracle, magic reincarnating
limbs at the start of spring; we don’t wish
to be bitter, oh never, please God save
me some small talk on the weather,
sun break on brutal cusp of winters;
I believe Robert Frost longed
to brain me with his cane.

Light Year Ghazal

We have heard those crickets swarm, on warm starry nights harping
rhapsodies: it’s as if their surf-like sighs might span even light years.

When fireflies get their act together at last teaching rainbows, jelly fish
meteors’ moons and tides – to fluoresce, one, two three light years.

Filament after filament flat–out crackled, when cordite split the banyan:
ablaze from heights of light, a candle made of years.

Did Carl Sagan or Steven Hawking know how loneliness felt to a comet
in Orion’s belt humping its own tail — for the Nth light year?

All that rage, against the dying when men began to gauge the distance
in Time, as dotted lines on dark highways flit—endless fits of white years.

Dirty-faced angels say it sotto voce, tangled up with high-volume recidivists:
in one ear: “Got a light?” In the other: “I’ve many… but Light takes years.


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