Poetry » Sean J. Mahoney »


There lives a skinny cousin in Las Vegas
who may have attempted erasure in
the last few days. They say.
Somebody on the network
said NV had taken pills,
someone else said
NV had gone missing.
There were few details.
They think it may have been
about a boy
which would explain,
perhaps, why motive
resides beyond the pale moon,
outside of stained pillow cases
and a training bra.

They say her father is strict
to the point of being both
harsh and Imelda
and that NV would be
justified in some
kind of mocked up
grab for attention.
NV says ‘Why you
breakin’ my balls’
when she feels
They say the father
is leaving for Guam
though, to work,
and that that
will be her renewal.
NV likes to draw
and could blossom into
art. With pencils
NV is working
two jobs for the family
and NV is confused
between shifts.
NV says next to nothing
at school for that would be
her undoing. I wrote her
something for her 18th
to establish our solidarity
among the trace
and between
the sketch.

NV is still 19….

….now and tomorrow
and for as long as NV can
bear being just herself.
NV needs to disappear
into dots and hues
and away from those campus
corridors and Pancit troughs,
away from the top-heavy
bellies of the morbidly
bellicose and the whisperers
who can only speculate
via networks. NV deserves
more than the oaken
figures NV daily finds
herself surrounded by
who relate in fits
of pantomime.


Magenta spots pock the leaves of saplings.
Winter’s imprint of sleep infects the young,
the old and defenseless.

In Doug Fir potters the mulch gets churned and
under fingernails packs itself in in millimeters
to rest. When smeared across shirts or tumbling
down over belly rolls it will be appliqued as finger
prints on the menu

at the pancake house. Sunday morning deferred.
A breakfast offering of eggs, sausage, and cranberry
confections. Crumbs settle in the beards of heavily
flanneled folk and blossom.

If, upon request, coffee is not served –
a please, a brief repose – she has other thirsty
seeds around the garden pinching
at her hose.

Shiny grounds wetten at the mug bottom.
A thumbtack of disparate people like weeds,
like new stains quiet til the dishwasher, cruel
as the June rain itself,
onto them
        as solvent.


Gears tumbling,
a semi chuffs up the slope of a street.

Suzie crossed through a cotton valley
over 40 years ago
and, having been left waiting for an ensign,
dissolute broke back into the hills
and the dirt corners she grew up standing on.

She lives now in the city on the eighth floor
of the Sutton Building, done in the Tudor style
and once home to Gloria Swanson.
The management settle her nerves.
She sleeps alone in a roomful of boxes.

Stacks of gardening books and pop-culture
t-shirts stuffed flush in the trailer
of a semi chuffing up the sloped figure
of a street,
swishing like a large fish.
Large enough to pull fishermen under the sea,
away from the white noise, away from
the crushing weight of Uncle Sam
and the mailman, away from the surface.
Large enough, as when a white hot star
dips in upon itself and gravity bends,
to swim in through faucets –
like the brass fixtures in Suzie’s bathroom –
and don a threadbare shirt;

the ensigns’ dress white she still sleeps in,
so that her skin tightens like a drumhead
in the final act of tuning.


you asked if i had ever seen a girl pee before while i watched you pee. you asked me if i was gay. you told the customers who had queued up while we were in the bathroom that i was your brother. you dark mexican. me white boy.

you gave me fifty bucks to let you sleep it off in the bathroom….only to stagger up in the early morning, flop into your oldsmobile, drive 100 feet east on marks avenue and crash into a power pole.

you were in your silk jammy bottoms and barefoot. 6 pack shiny with sweat. sinewy. you gave me a fat hit of base for a bottle of baby oil to use on the hot bitch back at your place.

you…i knew you once. you would gush over jarre, over descartes, and over the lovely dana. you lost your mind for her. you are here now in bundles. you smell. and you have come in 5 nights in a row for a bite to eat. some camel lights. and to inquire about my mind.

you gave me meth and i didn’t sleep for three days. all so that you could ‘borrow’ a vcr for 5 hours.

you stole money from the change safe while i checked in the dairy delivery. i never saw you again.

you drank coffee constantly, smoked marlboros constantly, and worshiped bon jovi. thank god you were there the night i came in a little sloshy and spelled me for an hour.

when you came in it was always past 2 a.m. and you had to have more beer. you stuck your tongue deep down my throat to get it.

you called me a racist when I rang you out and took the next customer in line while you counted out $3.73 in pennies. you were black. i was white. and people are people.

ass kicked somewhere for some reason, you could barely stand. you spilled gooey cheese all over the magazines and told me about the other dickface while waiting for your homies to pick you up.

you walked in with your spiky blond hair and an overcoat. you smiled at me as you approached the counter while the lingerers paused and waited off by the video games. you reached into your coat as if to withdraw a weapon and produced an umbrella. ah….william, it was really amusing.

you were the graveyard shift.

i served you.