Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Donal Mahoney- A Poem

Country Boy and City Bumpkin

Although I emigrated from Chicago to St. Louis, Missouri, a long time ago, I have never been anywhere near the small town of Ellsinore, Missouri, the birthplace of the late Albert Ray Morlen, barber extraordinaire. Al cut my hair in his St. Louis shop for at least 30 of the 47 years he did business there. He may not have been Andy Griffith but he was close to a clone and no one marketed the glory of his small hometown better than Al. And he did very well promoting belief in Jesus Christ as well.

His family had owned the only grocery store in Ellsinore back in the Forties and Fifties. He came to St. Louis looking for work. Finding none, he went to barber school and never looked back. He was a tonsorial artist unrecognized as such by most of his customers who were blue-collar men wanting little more than a trim or a crewcut plus an update on neighborhood news. Al not only gave them what they wanted but often a more liberal education as well. His specialty was theology. 

Al was a country boy and a Baptist and I was a city bumpkin and a Roman Catholic but we got along famously over all those years. If no one else were in the shop, we would discuss the differences in our two faith traditions. Al never flirted with Catholicism or I with his Baptist faith but when I first went to him he was convinced Mormons and Catholics were nothing more than cults and he didn’t hesitate to say that. After all, souls were at stake. Mine in particular unless I saw the light that he turned on every time I got a haircut. 

But after many years cutting my hair, and many long discussions, he one day told me he had changed his mind. Only the Mormons qualified as a cult. He had been wrong about the Catholics but he was still not too fond of all those statues. And since most of his customers were Catholic, he often had to attend funerals and still could not understand what was up with all that standing and kneeling. He never knew what was coming next. 

I could understand his problem since I had a attended a Baptist wedding once and we sat for the entire service. Big difference in the mechanics as well as the substance of the two faiths and not easy to explain, one to another.

It may have been on the same day that Al told me Catholics were not a cult that he also told me I was “saved,” whether I knew that or not. I knew this was no small thing coming from a Baptist, never mind one as solid as Al in his faith.

I had spent 19 consecutive years in Roman Catholic schools in Chicago without ever being told I was “saved,” a concept not accepted in Catholicism in the Protestant sense.  But then I had never been tempted to be a priest, either. So when Al told me I was “saved” and just too dumb to know it, I took that announcement as a Medal of Honor whether I could wear it or not. 

I demurred vociferously, of course, and said I was always in the process of being “saved” and hoped I would never fall off that path. I had a history of many tumbles in my time. 

I tried to explain the Sacrament of Penance to him and its biblical roots but that did not go over well. Nor did Purgatory and Martin Luther’s throwing the Book of Maccabees out of the Bible in the 16th century because of its allusion to Purgatory. But it was the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist as discussed in John 6: 41-59 that may have made some impression on him. Nevertheless, he remained steadfast in his appreciation of the grape juice and crackers used at his monthly Baptist communion service. 

I told Al, however, that despite canards to the contrary, Catholics believe that the grace of God alone can save someone and that “works” are not the deciding factor in salvation as some non-Catholics might have you believe. 

I added, of course, a reference to 2 James: 14-18 as the proof text which says “faith without works is dead” and told him Catholics believe that as well. Without works, faith is moribund, for all intents and purposes, but Catholics in no way believe works will get you to heaven. Works of mercy are what you do if you do believe, and you believe as a result of the gift of faith that comes freely from God. You can’t earn faith or heaven from the Catholic perspective but dying in serious or mortal sin can help you go to hell. Al didn’t agree with that. 

Al regularly invoked his belief that faith alone guarantees salvation, that when one accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior he or she went to heaven at death. No pit stop in the car wash of Purgatory. He did not buy into the idea of dying with mortal sin on one’s soul as a means of finding hell as one’s eternal destination. 

As a result, I used to remind him on occasion of a notorious adulterer in his home town shot to death by an angry husband. Al would always tell me that if the dead man had accepted Christ, he went to heaven and he thought legendary Cozy must have done that somewhere along the line. Maybe so, I said, but if he were a Catholic he’d have a lot of explaining to do, and we would leave it at that.

I never accepted Al’s offer to visit Ellsinore simply because I don’t like to “travel.” He told me I’d be welcome down there as a visitor and would love the catfish and barbecue but as a Catholic I might want to get out of town before dark. 

In a sense he was joking, of course, but in another sense maybe not so much. Solid fundamentalists, whether in southern Missouri or elsewhere in the United States, often have a deep-seated suspicion of papists whom they view as souls needing to be saved. In contrast, Catholics I know harbor no great animus toward Fundamentalists with whom we share similar positions on abortion, euthanasia and other issues in our society today. We disagree on many things but on core issues there is great similarity whether either group admits that or not. 

I used to read Al's hometown paper in his shop while waiting for a haircut and I had come to love from afar the people in that area. I would rejoice when I saw the rare obit in which the deceased “was of the Catholic faith.” I would circle that fact and give it to Al as part of my gratuity on the way out if only to prove we papists had infiltrated his part of the woods.

I also admired a senior columnist in the paper who at times not only voiced suspicions of cults (her readers knew who the cults were even if Al had pardoned one of them) but she also had serious questions about other Protestant denominations. She was a member of the Church of Christ. 

I told Al that as a good Baptist he might not pass muster with the columnist or perhaps the Church of Christ. I later learned this denomination had split in two and neither of the two, as I understand it, accepts the theology of the other. Martin Luther’s 16th century earthquake still has tremors today with reputedly more than 23,000 sects or ecclesial communities already established and more being born as disagreements in doctrine occur. 

I was often tempted to send the columnist a letter indicating that as a traditional Catholic who reads her column every week, I felt obliged to tell her we papists are Christian and believe that Christ is our Lord and Savior and anything she may have heard to the contrary is buncombe and balderdash. I never sent that letter. I didn’t think that kind of thing would be helpful in bridging the gap.

Al Morlen was truly one of a kind. Every time I go elsewhere for a haircut now I think of him. I have met a lot of people cut from rare cloth in Chicago and St. Louis but no one like Al Morlen, a Christian first and a barber second. 

The man had to emigrate from his beloved Ellsinore, Missouri, to earn a living and he did that successfully. He reminded me of my parents who had emigrated from Ireland, circa 1920, to earn a living as well. They too succeeded, making it possible for the likes of me to pick up a couple of degrees coming out of a neighborhood where few went on to college. And like Al making the long hike from Ellsinore, my parents brought their faith with them.

Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for U.S. Catholic Magazine, Loyola University Press, and The Chicago Sun-Times. Retired now, he keeps busy writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=

Ramona Thompson- A Poem

In These Breathing Moments
Each morning when I wake
Each night when I sleep
I am assured
He is with me
Never leaves me
We are one
Through it all
He is at my side
In joy
In sorrow
Always a part
In these breathing moments
My lord is forever there

I need never fear
Alone nevermore
My father watches over me
In good times and in bad
Sickness and health
Even death can not do us part
Eternal life
His promise to me
I know
I believe
With all the faith
In my heart of hearts
He will never break

Stronger together
Me and my lord
How sweet it is
To know
Where my soul is going
After this
Heaven bound
For glory
Can hardly wait
Wondrous reward
Soon to come
For a good and faithful servant

Got the best of the best
Standing up for me
Blood spilled
Upon the cross
Saved me
And so I promise him
In every moment
Every breath and whisper of my life
I thank him
I love him
My father
My savior
Life with you everlasting
Can't begin soon enough

2015 Ramona Thompson
Ramona Thompson has been writing for more then 20 years. Her past publishing credits include Dead Snakes, Calvary Cross, Infernal Ink, Erotic Tales of The Paranormal, Howl and many more.
Fans/readers may reach her via facebook or her e-mail reddstar111@gmail.com

J. "Ash" Gamble- Two Poems

Tickles Without Even Touching

Heaven to me
is about tickles without even
touching, just believing the
hand is there.

So Sure

What makes you so sure,
I asked the priest, then the pastor,
then the rabbi, and they all said,
Only faith, and no more.

Tempest Brew- Two Poems


speaking in lambs
and bowls
and trumpets and horns

there's got to be some
sense to the mess
and I guess we will
see what happens

Candy Faith

I don't want a candy
edible on a string,
I want a real, rough, raw
faith that meets real,
rough, raw life

Andrew M. Bowen- A Poem


The spawn of Adam
begat robots that revealed
Pluto’s wonders.  How
great a God to lavish such
care in sculpting a dead world.

Andrew M. Bowen works as a sales manager in Bloomington, IN.  He has published 26 poems and has his first two novels on the market.  He is also an actor who has appeared in eight independent films and six stage productions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Linda M. Crate- Three Poems

helping Hand
You forgive the unforgivable
in others, in me
and it makes me wonder
why people are so
unforgiving and judgmental?
You forgive
the pieces of me blacker than the darkest
so i know i must stretch my hands out
look down upon those weaker than i
simply to help them up
as You have helped
me to stand.

true love 
simply walking into a church
does not make one
a christian anymore than standing
in a garage could make one
a car,
but one can be revived by Your
words and Your truths
so very different
than the law of man;
and i know you have forgiven all my offenses
no matter how wretched they are
so i will always accept people
as they are
love is the only power that can change
the world
it is one of the most important lessons
You have taught me.

lantern light 
they judge me
yet You remind me not to judge
them in return
sometimes it's hard and sometimes
i fail
yet still You forgive me
give me chances
to make it 
and so i will stand as tall as a tree
in the rivers of Your peace and love
leading others to the light of
Your grace and kindness.

Donal Mahoney- Two Poems


Some say none.
Others say one.
Some say three

in one and then say
one of the three
is two in one,

divine and human.
Every day it seems
more say none.

Easier to talk
with those who say 
one but those who 

say three in one 
and one of the three 
is two in one,

divine and human,
they confirm a truth 
none will understand here.

Good News Grips Midnight Phil

Phil doesn’t go to church
but after midnight he enjoys
watching preachers on TV
swing their bibles in the air, 

march across the stage, yell 
about the joys of heaven and 
louder about the pains of hell.
He likes to see believers sing,

raise their arms and dance 
in ecstasy down the aisles.
They might be on to something,
Midnight Phil thinks, clicking 

his remote and wondering 
if they could be right and if 
they are, what about his bones. 
Where will they lie after midnight.

Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Jane Blanchard- A Poem


branch of three red leaves
suspended beneath the rest
forecasting the fall  
Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia.  Her work has appeared previously in Calvary Cross and recently in The Evansville Review and The Rotary Dial.

J "Ash" Gamble- Three Poems

Faking It

I won't sit and watch them
fake it, instead go outside
in the wild and find God
for myself once and for all.


God and I,
we used to be continents
away from each other until
I started growing older and now
we are one and the same.

Fragment Tongue

speak to me in parts of words
about your life and faith
and help me know and grow
inside this callous shell.
 J "Ash" Gamble is a late in life poet from Florida.

JD DeHart- A Poem

Oh Whale

the prophet
came to town
faint odor of fish
and sea
with a warning
and a tale.
JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  His chapbook, The Truth About Snails, is available on Amazon.

Donal Mahoney- A Poem

A Tsunami of Grace

Humphrey had just turned 100 when Bret, 16, was a guest at a party for this man he didn’t know. Bret went along to help an old neighbor lady who had known Humphrey all her life. He didn’t mind standing in line with her to shake Humphrey’s hand along with all the other guests who appeared to number in the hundreds. 

The line moved slowly because Humphrey talked a little with each guest as they bent over his wheelchair while shaking his hand. Bret didn’t mind because he figured at his age, Humphrey might indeed know something Bret didn’t know. Besides all that food on the buffet table looked very good. 

When it was Bret’s turn, Humphrey shook his hand, laughed and looked up at the boy and told him not to be so serious because life is short no matter how long it lasts and after death no one goes to Mars. 

"Look at it this way, young fella. We either go to heaven, hell or nowhere whether we believe there's an afterlife or not. 

"If we go nowhere," Humphrey said, "it’s like being one of those pandas they try so hard to save in China while letting people die. No one thinks pandas go anywhere when they die but pandas are cute. Many people aren’t. And if there’s no difference between pandas and people, why not save the cute?" 

Bret didn’t know much about pandas in China but he kept listening. It was the least he could do as Humphrey continued. And the buffet table was crowded with people filling their plates.

“And if there’s a hell, young man, and we go there, we damn well earned it. Who would send someone to hell forever if they didn’t deserve it?

“And if there’s a heaven and we go there, we damn well didn’t earn that either. We simply fell off a boat into a tsunami of grace sent for all who accept it. 

“And if we ignore that tsunami of grace, no wonder we go to hell or nowhere. Think it over. You’re a young man. Maybe I’ll still be here next year and they’ll throw another party. Come back, will you, and tell me what you think then.”

After listening to Humphrey's unsolicited advice, Bret didn’t know what to think so he headed for the buffet table and chowed down on all the wonderful food. Then he took his neighbor lady home. She was tired from all the activity and Bret didn’t talk about what Humphrey had told him. Still, Humphrey had made him think. 

Bret had seen a few pictures of pandas and indeed they were cute. But he didn’t know what to think about heaven, hell or nowhere, never mind a tsunami of grace. He’d have to Google some of that stuff and give it some thought. And he really hoped Humphrey would be there for a party again next year. Maybe he’d have some questions to ask him.

Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Jason Constantine Ford- A Poem

The Encounter

As I encounter truth immersed in light,
I feel a force transcending
the limitations in my sight.
An open scroll is now extending
its width in front of eyes which see the truth
as power that cannot become aloof.
The words I see upon a scroll are clear
as selfless love which I endear.
I read about the life of one who spoke
of how the higher truths exist
in teachings that mortals cannot revoke.
The deeds I read about this man consist
of works exceeding weakness in my soul
as I encounter truth which makes me whole. 

Danny P. Barbare- Two Poems

A Beginning





The Heavens







Danny P. Barbare has recently been published in Rhubarb, Doxa, First Day, and Friends Journal. He resides in the Carolinas with his wife and family and small dog Miley.


JD DeHart- Three Poems

JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  His chapbook, The Truth About Snails, is currently available on Amazon.


they say they stood
there and saw

put a finger in the side
of heaven

they say that a spark
of eternity wore sandals

they say the cup
tasted like water then wine
then bitterness.

What is Needed

is the answer
yet another movie ticket,
yet another page
of the same novel
republished as a new one,
yet another friendship
broken and pasted
together, yet another
childish obsession

or does the answer
lie in a deeper question
of faith and reason
I am only beginning to form


solitude, the art
of being alone in a full
universe, the dancing lights
found in a lonely forest

silence, the ability
to close the mouth
in the presence of possibility,
the act of listening

prayer, speaking not just
to one's own shadow self,
but aiming comment, affection
to an unseen distance

charity, the act that cannot
be spoken or shared to be real,
a hand or eye or cup
extended to a tired being.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Donal Mahoney- A Poem

One Big Whoop

All over the world
folks die every day
by the thousands
sometimes the millions 
what with wars
seiches and 

and so He’s busy
saying hello to those 
who have known 
He was there
or discovered Him
just before the end
often out of fear 

but can you imagine
those who thought
He wasn’t there? 
What a surprise!
One big whoop
for those folks.

Let’s be candid.
Death is bad enough.
But who wants
to find Him too late
glowing in the Light 
taller than His statue
in Rio de Janeiro
then see Him point,
then hear Him say,
“Please step 
over there.”

Donal Mahoney