The following poem is by Donal Mahoney. Although the connection to the presence of friends is quite subtle, it is there. In fact, it can be a rare experience to read a poem that contains both deep subtlety and great power in it--and to find these two qualities in a dynamic balance with each other. This is indeed what you will find in this poem. And something else.
Shakespeare's tragedies invite our reading, study and attendance because they are presented to us with great skill and art. To write of tragedy without such skill with language would create the equivalent of a news item. To invest the best of our language, its structure, its depth and subtlety in the portrayal of loss is a form of redemption. It creates beauty where, most likely, there was none... not in that raw moment. Plumbing the language in this way also gives us structure, as though a poem or play becomes a prism, and as we look through it, we see multiple points of view. Donal's poem takes the rough, raw iron ore of life--and grief-- and from this, creates a meaningful and beautiful form.
Bull and Bullock
The other night abed, Father,
propped upon an elbow, dropped
and died. Earlier that week, Mother
gave me Anthony to hold when
Father threw a fist, missed
and bellowed through the door.
I did not see the biggest of them
bear him back. But at the wake
they spoke of how he ran,
fell across a fence and swayed there.
I was in another room,
giving Mother Anthony to hold,
and I remember how,
clairvoyantly for once,
she wept there.
Before computers were invented, Donal Mahoney worked as an editor for the The Chicago Sun-Times. During that era and since then, he has had poems published in The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal Magazine, Catapult to Mars (Scotland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), Revival (
Ireland), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), The Camel Saloon, Dead Snakes and other publications. Revising poems on a computer, he says, beats the hell out of revising them on a typewriter. You can read more of Donal's poetry here.
Poem, copyright Donal Mahoney, All rights reserved.
Images, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa