Three Poems by Mary Lou Maloney

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Poses His Mother for a Portrait

Let the tea cup

hold your attention.

Do not dare to raise your chin.

I will make you ugly

if you speak.

I will paint an eagle

on your head

and he will flap wings

on your ears.

I could paint the lids off your eyes,

and make your nose

fuller than August

with just a few strokes.

Your lips could fade

as purple as your tongue.

Your hair

tucked into an inelegant knot,

My knife

scrapes your ear.

Do not think

I paint

the collar on your dress

to show off your perfect neck.

Tom O’Malley, Who Should Have Taken the Pledge

You were perloothered, Tom

Hacking back the Guinness

Couldn’t wait for the malt to settle out

its black body’s

cunning head.

You flew down Perking’s Road

right into the tree by Packie Quinn’s.

Did your lips taste hop

before they reached the glass?

Did you wander into the dark, your

knees as stiff as your father’s

who loved the swagger?

The teetotalers are

your pall bearers

cleaned and pressed

lined up at the altar

side by side.

Gold temperance badges

pinned to their lapels

shoulders solid

and straight.

Damn fool.

You should have taken the pledge.

Sworn before Father McTague

you would thirst

until your dying day.

My Brother and I Conduct His Antique Car Business in the Visiting Room of Maximum Security

The pinky reads Moonglow Beatnik Bandit Paint

notes he’s made from a prison-issue pen

for the wings of the dragon of his 36′ Chevy.

His hands, a full blown fan.

On his ring finger
Rodders Journal

Find the 50th

anniversary edition.

His middle finger wants me

to contact Jerry Hagen

for a 1939 keyhole cover

and he says, pay him with a money order.

His index finger
 has a drawing of a pump

from the 32′ Ford.

See if it’s in the basement

at Norwood Avenue

under my red tool chest.

His thumb is Black Bee Headlights

Look below the Don’t Mess with Texas sign

I turn his hand in mine to study his requests

There is no grease under his finger nails.

Mary Lou Maloney is a poet and former lobbyist for The Arc of Massachusetts, an organization that represents people who are developmentally delayed in the State of Massachusetts. She has studied poetry under Barbara Helfgott Hyett and is a member of Poemworks: The Workshop For Publishing Poets. As a first generation Irish American, her writing has often focused on her upbringing in Rhode Island in the Roman Catholic Church. She received her undergraduate degree at Regis College and her Masters at Boston College. She currently resides in Boston with her husband.