3 POEMS – Peter Mladinic


Schaeffer texts Tasia:

I told him to tether his dog to the back

bumper of my truck, so he did.  Then

the four of us went upstairs

to my apartment, at Woodleaf, had

a drink and recapped our weekend.


I should have said, “Bring your dog up.”

I didn’t think, yeah, your pet’s out there.

It could be snatched by a tweaker,

or, worse, a human monster dog fighter.


No wonder we haven’t talked.  Could have,

should have.  What’s done is done.

I could reach out, ask for forgiveness

still, the ill feelings are there, seeds


of my thoughtlessness that afternoon.

So I won’t reach out, what’s done

can’t be undone, and I’ve no urge

to plant, what?  The seeds of healing.


I screwed up.  Please forgive me

I could say.  I’ve no urge to go back,

like an AA member, going down a list

of lives he or she made miserable

while in an alcohol rage or stupor.


At that time, my decade in Woodleaf

a dog, or any pet was simply a thing

not a creature dependent on humans.

“Bring him up.”  It had been kenneled


all weekend.  What an ass I was!

But no one said anything, no one said

I’d regret that Woodleaf moment

and others, other places.  Tethered,

the dog waited for him to come down.




My mother’s funeral at Our Lady of Refuge

started with a jimmied lock, a break in.


John O’ Dwyer shot her, then me, then,

the gun barrel under his chin,

took his own life, twenty-three years ago.

I hovered between life and death.


Today, 1958, Jenna spoons a dollop

of stuffing on her plate and mashes it with a fork. 

She’s my cousin Ethel’s girl.

A begonia suns on a fire escape.

Mint green walls hold our shadows.


My mother’s funeral started in a bar

off the Concourse.  Glen Miller

on the juke, a man and a woman

slow danced to “At Last.”

Another night the man, short, stocky,

sporting a polka dot pocket handkerchief,

leaned and shook my hand.

NYPD but not in uniform, Johnny’s

a detective, Mother said.


Seated next to me, my wife, Grace,

blonde, obese.  At this Easter table

five children see a tall man with a long

face, a carnation in his lapel.

Grace passes me a bowl of cranberries.

I slice turkey, sip beer from a tall glass.


Downhill a half mile, the Concourse

is quiet.  Closed on Sundays,

the shoe outlet that was the Top Club:

Mother stepped from the Ladies.

At the bar O’ Dwyer asked,

Can I buy you a drink?


Poolside 1968


A brown hairbrush

sits on a coil of blue towel.  A hand

reaches up to the ledge of the pool

in your mother’s backyard.  Violets

climb the side of a gold porch.

You are gone from summer,

as if off to the war the Far East,

though that’s not what made

your husband a widower.

In red trunks he climbs out of the pool.

Your father is absent, sitting

on the steps out front.  Your mother

sitting the chaise sips a gin rickey.

The widower brushes his hair.

Streaked gray, once it was pure black,

laced with the rice of your wedding.

Your blonde hair cropped,

wind smoothed hairs along wrists

you lifted diving in.

You left no daughters.

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