Seventy years ago this week the last and bloodiest land battle in the Pacific during World War II began. Twenty years ago I was the Okinawa News Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes and was allowed to cover the three months of reunions and ceremonies any way I wanted. Here’s one of my best stories during that period. The news piece read like a poem and here it is, unchanged except translating it into poetic form.

By David Allen

George Allen White Jr.,
Edward Lewis White,
James White

American Marines who died on Okinawa.
These names are read in June,
in April the names were soldiers,
May was for sailors.

every day.

On April 1,
the reading of the names began
to commemorate
April fool’s Day,
Easter Sunday,
Love Day,
the day the Americans invaded Okinawa,
struck back on Japan’s home soil
in 1945.

Every day
for an hour at lunch
and in the evening
they came to read the names
at a church high on a hill
overlooking the invasion beaches.
A church with American and Japanese parishioners,
with a Japanese-Canadian priest,
who spent his war in a cold Saskatchewan internment camp.
Every day
they come to
All Souls Episcopal Church
to read the names of the souls

James Preston White,
James Thomas White,
Jerry Wilson White.

They are coming to the end.
Eighty-three days,
each day of the battle.
Returning veterans,
some with wives and grown children,
sit in the back of the chapel.

Thousands of names.
12,281 Americans,
110,000 Japanese soldiers and Okinawan conscripts,
More than 150,000 Okinawa civilians.

Logan Willard White Jr.,
Thomas George White,
Charles Edward Whiteman.

Each name another soldier,
sailor, aviator, civilian
killed in the carnage that was
the Battle of Okinawa.

Listen –

James Richard Whiteman,
Mark Edward Whiteman,
Forrest Whitt,
Joseph Henry Whitaker.

Whisper them softly,
fall into the rhythm.
it’s a Jewish Kaddish,
a Buddhist chant,
a Christian prayer.

Joseph Henry Whittaker,
Marvin Jones Wiggins,
William Robert Wiggins.

Name after name.
Each man some mother’s son,
some father’s pride.
this one the class clown;
that one the brain.

Some were orphans,
no family except their platoon
or shipmates.
That guy was a Gary steelworker,
and wasn’t little Jimmy Whit
the mechanic down at the corner garage?

And what of the names read
on other days?

David Bond,
Earl Graham,
Ernie Pyle.

Wait, that one’s familiar.

Pyle, a newspaperman,
he wrote about these people,
always making sure he got the names right.
Thousands of names for the readers back home,
’til a Japanese sniper reaped his name
for the book of the fallen.

All-American names
Howard S. Schwartz,
Louis Odachowski,
Kazuyoshi Inouye.

Some of the veterans are uneasy
on the wooden church pews,
it’s hard to sit through.
The reader’s voice is hoarse,
so many names.

Robert Wiggins,
Gray Huntley Whitman,
Hugh Whittington.

So many names.
Names inscribed on a striking monument
on Mabuni Hill, where the Japanese Army
made its last stand.
The Cornerstones of Peace,
the names of the dead from all the countries,
carved into 1,200 black granite walls,
stretching to the sea
like the wings of doves.

Donald James Wilton,
Kenneth William Wilkins,
Jack Williard.

The American list is over for the day.
the veterans leave,
handkerchiefs pat at moist eyes.
Few remain in the chapel
as a new reader sits at the table.
She begins to read.

Sato Yoshiro,
Yasuoka Tomohiko,
Murakami Minoru.

More names.
These are Japanese,
a college conscript from Tokyo,
a farmer from Hokkaido.
soldiers in the Emperor’s Army on Okinawa
when the Americans came with their
Typhoon of Steel.

Pak Man-do,
Chou Che-jiu,
Song Yong.

Korean names,
forced laborers,
comfort women.

Masahiro Kohagura,
Masao Ota,
Kiyo Yamashiro…

Okinawa names,
Page after page.
It sometimes takes 10 minutes
to read the day’s American names,
maybe 25 minutes for the Japanese,
much longer for the Okinawans.
That name belonged to a fisherman from Kin.
And wasn’t that the name of the mother from Itoman
who huddled in fear
at the rear of a deep cave with her two children,
shivering with fright as death came calling,
collecting his names?

teenage girls pressed into service to tend
the wounded.
Whole families of names,
each a sad reminder of War’s toll;
each name a testament.
To what?

This person once lived.
“I existed,
I had a name,
I was somebody.”

Read our names,
remember us.


This photo is called “Girl with the White Flag.” It was taken by a GI as a tunnel filled with civilians was cleared. The Survived. Many more did not.

This poem is included in my first book, “The Story So Far,” published by Writers Ink Press (New York) , copyright 2004 and available on Or get a signed copy by  emailing me at david@davidallen,nu.


Posted: February 22, 2015 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,

…….alley 3

By David Allen

the darkness closes in
as the theater spills its patrons
into the street.
the last act is finished,
the curtain is down,
no fanfare,
no standing ovation,
mild applause.
the reviews, save the one
from the underground rag,
were all bad.

The players will look
for new work in the morning.
the theater will house
a new playwright’s child.

I leave meekly out the stage entrance
into the alley —
always the alley —
overflowing garbage cans
stray cats
stench of vomit.

You join the crowd
push your way out into the street,
with its bright lights, laughter
smell of hot pretzels
carnival air.

The crowd moves past the alley
where my unnoticed shadow climbs
a fire escape to a small
cluttered room
to study far into the morning,
reviewing the mistakes
of his past performance,
practicing his new lines.



Posted: February 18, 2015 in Poetry
Tags: , , , ,


By David Allen

Their lunch consumed,
the waitress served them cake.

The woman left hers untouched.

“You’re not eating
your cake?” he asked.

“I gave sweets up
for Lent,” she said.

He thought for a moment.

“I gave up religion for lent,”
he replied.


Posted: February 11, 2015 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,

Mounds mall 2

By David Allen

Sitting on a bench at the mall
While the wife shops
For last minute holiday presents.
Two older mall walkers, dressed in jeans
And checkered flannel shirts stroll by.
“…and I thought for sure he was going
To shoot him. Yellin’ “I’ll kill you, you dog…’ ”
The shorter man says, shaking his head.
And as his voice fades down the hall,
I wonder how that confrontation ended.

On the adjacent bench behind me,
An overweight guy in a blue Colts’
Sweatshirt rests and greets each walker
As they stroll by.
Some pass us with young, bouncy steps.
Others keep their balance by pushing
Wheeled devices before them.
“I’m timing you!” my benchmate calls
To an elderly lady shuffling behind her cart.
“You’re slowing down!”
She smiles. Her husband carefully
Walks a few steps behind,
Prepared to catch her should she stumble.

“You too tired?” a short, dark-skinned man
Asks my seatmate.
“No, just resting a bit,” he answers.
“Did three laps already.”
‘You too old!” his friend laughs.

It’s almost noon and there are few shoppers,
Strange just six days before Christmas
When the “Door Busters” sale is on
At the nearby Carson’s department store.
This former mill town has hit hard times,
Many mall shops have closed.
The Carson’s employees must now walk
To the food court for lunch
Because the MCL cafeteria across the hall
Sits empty, doors boarded up.
Next door, Bonzo’s Bounce House is closed,
Flashing lights waiting for schools to close.

“You got much shopping left?”
A middle aged woman asks her walking mate.
They each clench weighted barbells,
Widely swinging their arms as they stride by.
“As much as I can afford,” her friend answers,
Keeping up the pace, warding off the pounds
Holiday meals threaten to add

A threesome approaches.
Two men with a woman in the middle,
All appearing in their 70s.
“And I guess I’ll go to the hospital,”
The man on her left says. “Gotta see how…”
The sentence is lost to distance.

Three older women come by,
Hands gesturing as they make points
In their conversation.
“And then I put it in the oven,
But forgot to set the timer…”one says.
As they pass, my benchmate shouts,
“Merry Christmas girls!”
“And to you!” the baker says.
I’ll never know if her pumpkin pie burned.

Several walkers are soloists,
Measuring devices strapped to their waists
To count the steps, headphones
Block out the holiday tunes
Broadcast throughout the mall.
Many look old, retired, widowed maybe,
On their fourth or fifth pass by me.
Some smile, wondering, perhaps
What I might be writing,
Unknowing that I have borrowed
A few seconds of their time for my lines.

The mall is a sad place, its future in doubt.
Studies are underway to dam a nearby river
And flood the massive structure
And the half-empty nearby strip-mall shops
And shoddy residential neighborhoods,
Turning the area into a reservoir,
Providing pricey waterfront lots
For rich folk who shop online
Or at the teeming malls in Indianapolis.

Two women bundled in winter clothes
Meet in front of Carson’s,
One carries a small shopping bag.
“Last minute shopping?” the unburdened one asks.
“Got to,” the other answers. “In-laws are coming.”

Two workers from the department store
Exit behind them, chatting intimately
As they cross the hall and stand in front
Of the darkened former cafeteria.
The young woman places her hands on her hips
As the young man talks, his hands folded across his chest.
They see me watching, she smiles, gestures in my direction
And they turn and step back into their store,
Their plans for a tryst, perhaps, delayed for a moment.

Two women enter Carson’s behind them.
The younger one pushes a baby carriage
With an infant girl playing with a small ball.
The older woman pushes a wheelchair
Occupied by a paralyzed teenager.

Near a large potted plant,
A young woman in a heavy gray coat
Hands a cell phone to her right ear
And wipes away a tear with her free hand.
“Can you come out here?” she says
To someone somewhere else.
“I’m at the mall and my car won’t start.”
She shoves the phone into her coat pocket
And walks towards the exit.
“God damn!” she mutters.

“Something wrong there,” my seatmate says.
I turn to answer, but eye my wife leaving the shop.
She carries a small bag.
“Door Buster hell!” she tells me.
“Someone busted the good sales.
Not much I wanted.”
I rise to greet her.
“Whatcha got?” I ask.
“You’ll see,” she teases.
“Merry Christmas!” my benchmate says.
“And a Festivus for the rest of us,” I respond.
He laughs as we leave the dying mall.




Typewriter Rhythm
By David Allen

he sits at the typewriter
tap, tap, tap dancing,
his fingers playing rhythm,
his mind swirls on the dance floor.
his muse,
fruit hat balanced on her head,
is warm to his touch at her waist
as they dip, slide, turn and glide
the night away.
tap, tap, tap
the thoughts form into letters, words
staccatoing the beat;
faster, faster, building
intense, the dancers fling about the floor,
around and down, around, around
and up.
tap, tap, tap,
fingers madly lightly touching
electric dancing keys,
until, at last, the climax comes.
tap tap, tap tap, tap tap,
and the musicians play
“Goodnight Ladies,”
as silence sweeps the dance floor clean
(except for the motor’s hum).

2014 in review

Posted: January 1, 2015 in Poetry
Tags: , ,

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

images (17)

by David Allen

Where are the poems?
I looked in all the familiar
Places and failed to find
A line that I could use.
I wanted to ask my muse,
For a shot of inspiration,
But she slept the sleep
Of the jet lagged
And I feared waking her
Would result in words too tart.
I looked in the bathroom
And behind the bar
But found no Bukowski hidden there.
The fridge offered no Ferlinghetti.
So I went out back, but Jack
Must’ve been somewhere on the road
No words, no poems.
No Ginsberg in my ginseng tea
No Billy Collins cropped
Up in my cup
And Cummings apparently
Must’ve come and went
Before my feet hit the
Bedroom floor
An unpoetic day, I thought
That’s what this is
And so, I left for work
Where the news is my muse.
The words always come easy there,
Like the snippets I write when a trial drags
And I readily reach
Into the recess of my
Addled mind and find
The thoughts to kick start
The poetic engine of my being.



Cop Reporter 1977

By David Allen

“Got a comment?”
I asked the Public Affairs Officer.
“When’s your deadline?” he asked.
“Three hours,” I said.
“Dammit,” he replied.
“How do you spell that?” I asked.

Tropical Xmas

News item: The military community on Okinawa once was short of live Christmas trees because a bug-infested shipment from Washington state had to be destroyed. Supplies of artificial trees on island bases were woefully inadequate and trees in Japanese stores were outrageously expensive.

 So naturally, Ruth Ellen and I made up this carol while on our quest for a Christmas Pine in Paradise:

By David Allen

No Christmas trees, no Christmas tree
The bugs destroyed your branches.
Shipped here by sea for you and me
You never got your chances.
No blinking lights, no angel’s heights
No shiny star atop your spar
No Christmas tree, No Christmas tree
The bugs destroyed your branches.

No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
Cut in the great Northwest.
The Customs men had you condemned
You couldn’t pass the test.
No falling needles everywhere
No Christmas tinsel in our hair
No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
Cut in the great Northwest.

 No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree,
Your plastic was so tempting.
But your high price turned veins to ice
We can’t afford that yen thing.
And so we’ll go sing “ho, ho, ho,”
To a beach that’s out of reach
We’ll watch the stars for Santa Claus,
And buy a Christmas wreath.”





By David Allen

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
Hanukah, too, this is my Holiday poem
For the Last Stanza Crew.

Let’s remember this December
Other reasons exist
To wish a Festivus for the rest of us,
No matter your bliss.

And, speaking of bliss,
This season marks when
Buddha found his.
Now, isn’t that Zen?

And shouldn’t we add Saturnalia
To this season’s list?
After all, that old Roman holiday
Was the start of all this.

For, one week in December
The Romans gave a big bash
Where everything was permitted,
Like “The Purge,” with thousands cast,
To get drunk, damage property,
Injure strangers and friends
Historians someday will tell us
That’s where “Black Friday” begins.

The holiday was so popular
Early Catholics stole the date
To lure pagans to their churches
So they could seal their fate.

“But the War on Christmas is upon us,”
The Faux News anchors scream,
But look not only to Humanists
For raising their spleen
Hardcore Christians, the Puritans
Once took up the torch
To ban Christmas hokum
No day for their church.

The reason for the season
To me is just this –
Another year’s over
And we are still here
That’s a reason to party
To throw off our fears
To count all our blessings,
Whatever that’s worth,
Because we haven’t yet
Killed our Mother Earth.