The Whole Mad Swirl

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

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I was out of control, spinning
on the whirligig of youth,
giddy to be caught
in what Kerouac called
"the whole mad swirl
of everything to come."
I didn't know what to expect.
I was ready for nothing
though I had spent years
in solitary confinement

with books, exams and degrees.
You would think I'd have learned
something about life as it is,
not as I wished it to be.
I went out on the street
to look for work
and was surprised to discover
no one spoke Old English
like Beowulf or Middle English
like the Wife of Bath.

An old professor told me
I talked the way
e.e. cummings wrote
and no one would hire me.
A few years later I married
a woman with several degrees.
She thought I was normal.
We had five kids in six years
and drove landlords bonkers.
"The Lord will provide,"

we said, and He did.
Fifty years later, the five kids
have rucksacks of their own
packed with jobs, marriages,
children and good lives
measured against
the standard of most.
Their mother is dead,
and like everyone else
on this strange planet

I am in the process
of dying in the jaws
of what Kerouac called
"the whole mad swirl
of everything to come."
I have seen almost all
of "everything to come"
except for the best part
and that, I am told,
will take my breath away.

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Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


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