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Apples Fall Close to Trees | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

My mother always said my father
was a little odd and she lived with him
all those years and should have known.
When we were small my sister and I
knew he was different. No other father
answered questions in double talk
hidden in a brogue.

My sister and I finally agreed decades later
that all the neighbors who said he was odd
were right, too, and who can blame them.
When Mr. Bittle over the fence told my father
Mr. Murphy from down the block had died, my
father told Mr. Bittle that people were dying now
who had never before died. It’s no wonder
Mr. Bittle went back in the house.

My mother said she often forgot how odd
my father was until he came home from work.
Once when he was removing the thermos
from his lunch bucket she told him someone
had stolen the Brickles’ truck and he yelled,
“What would Mary Supple say to that?”
My mother asked who Mary Supple was
and my father said she was John Godley’s
cousin who had married Paddy Supple.

My mother said she had never heard
of John Godley or Paddy Supple and
my father said that’s because she came
from the wrong side of Ireland and not
the side he came from where everyone
knew the Godleys and Supples farmed
the land next to the cliff that dropped
into the sea and if you were courting
after visiting Ryan’s pub you had to be
careful dancing close to the edge.

As a grandfather myself now I know
when I double talk with grandson Jack
and ask him whether kids walk to school
or carry their lunch and he says they ride
the bus, I’m not surprised when he asks me
what’s the difference between an orange.

That’s when I tell Jack it wouldn’t be fair
if Grumpa told him the answer because
he’s too smart and can look it up
in the encyclopedia on my desk.
And then Jack says he’ll Google it
on the iPad when his dad gets home.
He wants an iPad for his birthday, Jack says.
And that’s when I hear my father yelling,
“What would Mary Supple say to that?”

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