Los Dolores,

My mother and stepfather went to Florida yesterday.
Before leaving she asked me to go check on the Old Lady
once or twice while they're away, enticing me with leftovers
in the fridge. Since I had to pass by their development
on my way home from work today I figured I'd swing by.

No one answered the phone when I called ahead to see
if my grandmother's caretaker needed milk for the two of them.
I contemplated buying a half-gallon anyway, but didn't.

When I got there I saw why no one had answered the phone.
The woman who tends to the Old Lady was out back on
the patio talking to her friend. She introduced us and
I was surprised to hear him say "How are you?" as we shook hands--
me avoiding eye contact, him avoiding a firm grip.

In my broken Spanish and her broken English we established
that they did not need milk or bread or any other staples
and that Grandma was upstairs in her room. About-faced
and trudged through the living room with my workboots on
not caring about the carpet since my mother was all the way down
the Eastern Seaboard, far out of harm's way.

I knocked on her open door and greeted her with the formal salutation
small Hispanic children are trained to say to their elders upon greeting
and parting, a word I believe roughly translated means "God bless you."
She turned from the window where she had been looking down
at my previous engagement, shining her big dentures at me
and spreading her arms so wide in preparation for a grateful hug
her pastel striped blouse spread wide like a sail and the sun shone through it.
I hugged her gingerly but with feeling, a feat necessary
with those eighty and older
easily accomplished by the patting of the back to show emphasis
without enough strength to hurt frail bones.
I tried to keep our chests from touching since I was still covered
in white concrete dust from work.

"Hello, how are you?" was the anticipated first question
that bought me some time while I quickly ran a scan of
my hazy memory for a proper response in Spanish.
"I'm good, I've been working today." It felt more like the beginning
of an eighth-grade oral test than a conversation with a woman
responsible for my existence. Not being fluent enough to do more than understand
some of the language is one of the few things I'll never forgive my mother for;
she should've continued to teach me as I grew older. As a baby I spoke both
but the inconvenience drove her to give up on the process
and I'm now no better off at expressing myself than your typical
junior high student, especially with past-tense verbs.

I knew it'd only be more awkward from there on in. "Yeah? On a Saturday?
You're a good boy." My limited vocabulary made me curl my toes in my boots
as I spat out the next words for the sake of saying something coherent:
"Yeah, I've been trabajando como un hombre fuerte," laughing in my head
at how tacky that sounded as I flexed a bicep and hoped she didn't laugh
at her grandson for saying he'd been "working like a strong man"
with a straight face.

She didn't. Her face lit up and I interjected with what I knew she wanted to hear next
since this script never changes much. "Mom said there's food for me to take home."
The sense of urgency that took over her wrinkled face proved that she was definitely
a mother of three obsessed with feeding her offspring. "Yes, take it and eat it
and be healthy and strong!" Good advice, and more simple words I could handle.

I went on to tell her to have her caretaker dial the phone for her
if she needed anything, milk or eggs or fresh fruit, and she smiled again
saying that she had asked my mother to leave my number with them
in case of just such an emergency. I already knew that fact because
upon walking through the kitchen earlier I saw my number on a Post-it Note
next to the Spanish phonetic spelling of my name that my grandma used to
write on birthday card envelopes and the like: Maico.

Her appreciation for my sense of duty was evident when she went off on
a rant too fast with emotion for me to decipher, but I got the basic idea.
The part at the end of her speech said that she calls me her son
because she always thought of me as her "real" son since she spent
so much time with me as I grew up. Out of about ten grand- and great-grandkids
I was the one she spent the most time with, something I value.

Grinning a stubbled countenance of contentment I said goodbye
with that same silly word I've been brainwashed into saying
and edged my way towards the stairs. She spread her arms wide again
and embraced me with full force. "No, be careful, I'm dirty from work!"
I warned her, but she only held me tighter. "You're my son, and even
when you think you're dirty, I still think you're clean and pure."

Clean and pure. The words rang out. Sometimes I forget that
in some eyes I still am and always will be.
That's worth all the potential bread and milk and egg deliveries in the world.

Clean and pure.
I squeezed tighter, too.
To hell with that fake back-pat hug.
Love like that is worth brushing some concrete dust off a pastel-striped blouse.

Currently reading:
"Open All Night" by Charles Bukowski.


As I sit here with my right testicle hanging out of my shorts...

There's a select breed of them I've known
who stand apart in a seemingly backwards
scenario: they tire of their men
who are in turn frightened away from them
for one reason or fifty.

Watercolors remind me of them
and ponchos
and poetry from the heart
and anything bright
or dull or dead.

Somehow, when talent and wit were being doled out
their pregnant mothers sold their souls
to get to the front of the line, but for naught.

Ever since being birthed back in the Eighties
it's as if they've tried sucking up the world
in an attempt to portray or perfect it, but forgot to live in it
in the process; like my mother said of my father's type:
"So Heavenly bound that they're of no Earthly good."

Eating ribs in a white T-shirt and cursing at other motorists
and spitting on bugs when the childishly cruel urge comes up--

It's all OK, kids--

at least to these whelmingly human eyes and hands and feet

this Cowboy more free than anyone else claiming to be.

But don't let their alleged innocence fool you, Pilgrim:

Not that I'd know any better
than the next poor bastard
(this old dog found new tricks
less painful to the joints)
but something tells me if one brave enough to bed
one of these beauties lifted her sleeping hand
from the sheets the next morning
he'd find paint chips, sheet rock dust, and some of his skin
under her fingernails.

It's not their faults, they mean well most times.
It's like that one about the scorpion who stings the frog
as the latter gives the former a ride across the river
and they both drown-- it's just in their nature.
Still, they're the kind of women who
if they don't slow down
will end up aging less than gracefully;
smelling of their India ink
and wet clothes locked in a trunk to grow musty;
looking like a sadist tried shucking an oyster
with a baseball bat.

If you're wondering if this was all supposed to be
a pro or con statement, you are not alone.
I'm not even sure what I meant by any of it, I just know
that it's in the limbo where some memories live.

I can't argue with the fact that they've served a function
that I thought was impossible:
they've made me feel sane, by comparison.
After some of the charades, firsthand and otherwise
it's hard not to feel baffled
like a helicopter pilot after an F-16 flashes by
asking himself, "Jesus Christ! What the hell was that?!"

And maybe all this is just a projection of my bitter envy
over the fact that any given one of them
could write circles around me without trying, instantly
reducing me to a wanna-be version of my obvious literary anti-hero
a lacking facsimile of one who lived it more
and bitched about it less.

Eh, whatever. It killed twenty-seven minutes
while waiting for home to get here.


One for the road.

Friday I'm leaving work early
to go visit my grandmother's brother
who went to the doctor for a routine check-up
and wound up in the hospital on his deathbed
at the ripe age of ninety-six.

The problem I have is not knowing whether
or not to wear that long-sleeved button-down.

Would that imply that I know that he knows that I know
that this will probably be our awkward goodbye
in my family's foreign tongue that I can't speak fluently?

Something tells me that when his pale blue eyes
see the meek look in mine
such trivialities as my shirt won't matter, but
it's just another of those things I won't know for sure
until I'm on the other side of the barrel.

God deals too many of those cards.


Gobble Gobble, Motherfucker.

Once, you banished him
from your miserable mansion property
suggesting that I rent elsewhere;
but Oh Captain, My Captain (Behoover)
came back with (a pipe wrench and a shotgun
and a speech impediment and) a vengeance
better than Bruce Willis
to put a cap in your turkey's corn-fed ass.
I had to pick the bullets out
and shave some feathers before
cooking his succulent breast, but
it was delicious-- breaded and seasoned and fried
like chicken cutlet a la Vahsen.
There was much hateful rejoicing
in celebration of the Spite Turkey, don't doubt that.
Guard your pets from now on, bitch;
we like Chinese food, too.

-- Robert "The Beast" Mahoney, 2008


Turquoise or Amethyst?

It was one of those stupid tiffs couples have--
a slight inconvenience complicated by timing
and further confused by alcohol. It would've blown
over by morning had no one addressed it, but
she didn't let it come to that. I got out of bed
to take a leak. When I came back I noticed
that my pillow was missing and hers was now
in the center of the bed. I figured that meant
I'd be sleeping on the floor and didn't have
the energy to argue over it, but I was wrong.
"I hid your pillow. We can share mine if you want."
Any of you who've had a relationship of this caliber
know how amazing make-up sex is, so I'll spare you
the details.
"Did you like my trick?" she asked afterwards.
"Yeah, thanks for coming through."
It wasn't so much a trick as a tool to reconcile.
It felt good knowing I wouldn't be the only one to
make amends before bedtime from now on.
We passed out in each others arms
bare as the days we were born
with the lights still on
and our legs entangled in a marbled mess.
She must've gotten up to hit the lights
at some point during the night, and
she didn't even turn off
the air conditioning I'd begged to turn on
even though she was probably cold.
I'm sure the sight of me drooling on the sheets
with my hairy beergut let loose to gravity
in my post-coitus slumber didn't repulse
her one bit, even though it'd be enough
to frighten most. I'm insecure
about certain things and probably always will be
but she somehow manages to make me feel beautiful
on a daily basis; not in the way Grace Kelly was on the screen
nor an Olympic figure skater in the rink-- no, nothing inherent
or blatant or boastful. It's all filtered through the prism of her love
like the way an old, haggard blues guitarist
with liver spots and bloody gums is transformed
as soon as he makes those notes bend
you to tears, or a welder who knows his trade
better than he knows his children
binds those metals together expertly and with pride
until the last joint is sealed.
It's a loveliness often missed out on since it requires
more attention than most take the time to give
and it's more than I think I deserve being given, though
she begs to differ, thankfully.
After the Incident
my mother told me a day of reckoning would come
and until then I'd rack up experience points
for the long haul.
I know she'll sleep better
knowing the hands
my heart's finally in
after she meets the pillow thief.

Currently reading:
"Hell's Angels" by Hunter S. Thompson.


On selling your soul for a buck.

My bucket of tools banged against
the side of my leg as I moped
to the house I had to work on.
The site was like a ghost town
due to the weather, figured I'd fake
a kind word to one of the few souls
actually there. Switching hands
with my load, I forced a hungover smile
and told that sole carpenter the fascia
he was nailing to the roof of the porch looked good.
The rough wood was no longer visible
replaced instead by decorative white aluminum.
He stepped down from the ladder, pretending to
need nails, and showed that he was lonely
by saying more than "Thanks." My foreman
wasn't around but I still wouldn't drop my bucket
to chat; whatever he said had to be quick, but it wasn't.
"It looks good, but I feel like an asshole. These two birds
keep flying around me trying to get into the gaps
in the wood I just sealed off with aluminum. They must
have a nest in there somewhere, probably babies."
He shook his head and gave me the look of disgust
that comes with the burden of doing whatcha gotta.
I saw in his eyes behind Coke-bottle glasses
that he was one of us, the cursed and conscienced
minority on the job.
I picked up the pace to avoid further awkward
seemingly meaningless conversation
and pitied the poor bastard for trying to walk my line
having a heart on a construction site.
Don't worry, man. This isn't Nuremberg, you were
"just following orders" will fly. By the time I finished hooking
up the furnace behind the house he was gone.
The birds were still there chirping their little hearts out.
It dawned on me that it's not always for the reason
we'd like to think.


homemade tattoos.

It's a very definite look, tangible almost:
when briefly locked eyes leak
that he knows
that you know
that both of you know
what it's like to be

Then comes the question of
who got where first and to what extent--
brain, heart, and loins being bartering chips.

Really none of it matters.
You're both on her list

and wound up in the same places in the end--
the liquor store and the drawing board--
and all you can do is be thankful that
some souls still know what it's like to forgive
and leave Judgment Day to our Maker's discretion

...though I have a hell of an advantage
having found one who sucks the poison
from snakebites on this leper's limbs.

How's that for a douche-bag?


Sometimes friends fight.

Despite the whiskey on a Wednesday, I know
you'd be proud: I finally deleted
all of the Numbers' numbers.
It was a form of groveling that even I
was ashamed of. Remember those days, pal?
Yeah, me neither, but we're still paying
in spades and honest alibis.

Not that it matters now anyway. Bloodshed
can't be undone and that war was too blatant
to deny its existence.
(Women: 0, Junior: N/A)
Despite the five o'clock shadow
and taste for vengeance I am not and never was close
to being any sort of Clint Eastwood; always
The Bad or The Ugly, usually both.

(Here's the one you think you deserve;
Shitty consolation, I know.)

What plagues me now
is the opposite of the Monet Effect: though people judge me
from afar, the flaws disappear as one gets closer; though
sometimes new ones appear when the boundaries between
me and them disappear and they see it from my insides out.

Life isn't as grand through these eyes, Kid.
They aren't even mine, they're my father's
and look where they got him, wherever he may be.
At least the scars are my own, take
them or leave them.
Neither will surprise me.
Nothing much does at the age of twenty-four
going on fifty.

It felt old to drive a friend home from
a party, surprisingly mostly sober, when the drugs
hit him too hard. But the real kicker
is seeing bad luck multiply at the cellular level
in someone who clearly doesn't deserve it, someone
who will make a difference here someday
when this latest test is passed.

I swear this isn't pity, but strength
or an Oscar-worthy fraudulent version
is enough to make a fan crumble
after the ovation.
I'm not a religious man, or even spiritual, just
know that whatever manner of prayer
a sinner like me could make is with you.

But, like the rest of the aforementioned, she'll
stretch a mile before she tears an inch.
The good ones always do.

Currently reading:
"1984" by George Orwell.


Smiling through the afterbith.

How novel it was:
neither one cold while sharing the shower
washing off sex in our suits of lather
praying that we could wear them forever
changing the sheets every day for good measure
with noses buried in books side-by-side
until the diner calls or we die.

Currently reading:
"The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson"