Dennis Mahagin

three poems

ichabod he gets things done by god

Watching water boil
for Chai Tea, reminds me
of all the sights I shall
never, ever, ever

see in this life, like twin
rainbows limning famous
St. Louis Arch

a full spectrum of Pittsburgh Trim
–one halo’s breath painted just
above the rim;

meanwhile, my fingertips drum
the horseshoe-shaped Formica top
like a c c e l e r a t i n g



hoof clops
with a need to be some-
where in a big damned



A partly cloudy morning in May.

Two crows
on a tightrope of telephone line, strung
from pole to pole; slight down-slope undulation
in the center where they sit, like twitches with
synchronized tics, soaking up the human whine
– talons wrapped tight ’round coaxial line.


“I’m only telling you what I heard…”


“But it gets better.”


Four more crows
light on the creosote pole; they hop
across the line

to congregate with their cohorts, opalescent
beaks bent low to the ever-present hum
– as though to divine whispers of minor
chords, insistently strummed.


“Are you serious? You mean he caught her
having cyber sex?”

“Yes. Came home early from a business trip. She was using
his laptop. In his study. I guess she was all… hooked up.”

“Oh, God!”

“The way I heard, her legs were splayed
on the armrests of his swivel chair, hips
bucking against her slick wrist and she didn’t
even know he was there, for the longest time…
Calling out the other guy’s name. Then she
finally saw hubby’s face in the archway, right
as she came.”


Twenty-four more black
ass birds on a power line.

The cable bows and sways
under the weight of crows
like refugees overloading
a life raft

on storm swell implosion
of Atlantic sea.

“Oh my God…
Shelly, I’m looking out my
kitchen window–and those god damned
magpies are back! Fucking nasty things…
they make such a racket. I told Richard
to call-”

“I guess they have two kids.”


“Maybe they’ll work through it.”

“Wait… Did you hear that?”


“It sounded very… maybe…
Not. But still. … .. In the line.”

“You mean, like a click?”

“Nah… different… Ah, those fucking birds give me
the creeps! I’ve pounded on the window two times
already. Oh, no. Another one just showed up!”

“Yeah, well you should definitely have
Dick call the Orkin Man. So anyway…
Tell me what’s going on with you.”


Forty black crows– break
cover on cue, with a sound
like dank duvets dashed

by wash maidens on river rocks,
on a partly cloudy day, blackbirds wheel
high overhead, a fifty foot surf curl

of pitch-black flock, saw tooth wings
at nine and three o ‘ clock when

their hysterically staccato
Caw ! – Caw !

of laughter
rings out

right clear to the end
of the block.

i’ll definitely buy that karma for a dollah

Octogenarian at a swap meet,
rail thin, with clean clown feet
–imaginary ear buds for I Pod
of Senility,

in a thick Yiddish brogue he channels
a cappella talk snippets– it’s Lulu from
To Sir With Love!– Octo talks it all, through
pursed cyanotic lips, so determinedly ice blue:

“…Da time ..
has come…for da closing books
and long last looks / must eeend…”

Octogenarian taps
the pockmarked tin
of a John Holmes pepper mill,
pulling it from the Dollar Bin, shaking it
all crazy like maraca on Bandstand:

“Oi!” cries Octo, “I’m your proxy papa,
my boy… I geeve you two bits for da

I look the old guy in the eye,
and wearily reply:

“Ahhh… This ain’t my stall, Dad.”

Octogenarian inches
Closer. Heady, heady scent
of Aqua Velva and Poli Dent:

“Ach… Listen, sonny. My torpor for a song?
Time passes much qvicker, ven you dicker.
In fact, ve’ve been humming it — all along!”

Octogenarian keeps
clocking me and clocking
me… He has no idea

that I am

Now he’s copping licks
from Dionne Warwick:

“Eeeef you see me valkin’
down da street, and I schtart
to cry, no wonder vy…
Valk on BYE!

Octo cracks
his liver-spotted knuckles, so irksome
and ungainly! It’s like he’s expecting
some kind of tip from me.

I ain’t got the heart
to tell him I’m Security.

I ain’t got the heart
To tell him I’m Security…

“Look, old man…
Are you here to buy?”

“Dese foolish prides…
all dat I have left…”

from a Purgatorial Periphery,
come the many shouts of
Jewish gadflies,
universal prurient louts
never been no kind of shy:


“Cut Heeem some sleck…”

“Only cold playuhs give
their elders short shrift!”

“You must lay on Grampy
a heart-felt parting gift!”

at the swap meet,
looks down at his crossed clown
feet, licks spittle from cracked
lips, then talks a bit

of Jefferson Starship:


Wherefore extol
my pity on Swap Meet Geezer?
–reptilian troll, tone deaf
crowd pleaser?

I send him home
with a stolen Cher CD,
and a pair of gold-plated
eyebrow tweezers.

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