reporter_-_bw_vintage

HAIKU CHALLENGE

Working as a news bureau chief for Stars and Stripes on Guam and Okinawa were the best 19 years of my newspaper career. There usually was plenty to do, but sometimes the news was slow and the staff, scattered across the Far East, shared haikus to while away the time. Here’s one started by The South Korea Bureau Chief one day:

The subject: Base PAOs. (Don’t forget, 5,7,5.) I’ll start:

“E-mail the question
Expect an answer by 5
No comment, thank you”

So, I answered with:

I NEED AN ANSWER NOW
“Dammit,” he replied.
“How do you spell that?” I asked.
“D-A-V-I-D.”

And another reporter came up with:

Ask me no questions,
I’ll tell you no lies, unless
you prefer bullshit.

So, an editor wrote:

Jack Daniels, my friend.
Please prevent me from killing
The guy on the phone.

My next submission was:

the questions are old
I await the brasshole’s call
and his blank reply

Which was promptly answered with:

Warzinski speaks fast:
“Mmmm srnn fennn bumn mmm Japan”
What the fuck was that?

Followed by a reporter:

Thank you for calling.
Leave a message…we’ll call when
Sherman leaves Georgia.

And another by me:

deadline is looming
the telephone remains mute
Sid says, “killing me.”

Followed by an editor’s:

We pulled the curfew.
Not because of your story;
Ummm, we planned it. Yeah.

To which another editor responded:

The razor is dull
and my wrists are deeply scarred
when the phone call ends

And I answered:

“why not write good news?”
the Marine officer asked.
when you are we will.

Another editor then wrote:

Interview request?
Just e-mail us your questions.
We like that better.

To which the founder of the challenge answered:
Since this one is almost a perfect quote – and Joe will back it up (remember the conversation with Nowell?) – I think I win!

Why would I give you
information when I can’t
control what you write?

Followed by this protest:

In twenty-four years,
Flack is most unfair and mean.
Take ball and go home.

-30-

69285_10152545420865247_371163030_n

 

I THOUGHT I SAW MY SPLEEN LAST NIGHT
            By David Allen

 I thought I saw my spleen last night
Had grown to five times its size
There is no doubt, it must come out
The doc said with a sigh.
He made a deep incision
Under my left rib cage
And plunged inside with gloved hand
And thus, the battle was engaged.
Air was pumped into my belly
To make room for his search
But as the doc’s cold fingers found
The spleen gave a sudden lurch.
“Hold on, please don’t be hasty,”
It said with a cry of pain.
“I’m too attached to my host,
Leave me be, I’ll shrink again.”
“There’s a lymph node here that too has grown
Why not take him instead?
There’s plenty more where he came from
While I’m the only spleen my host gets.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” the surgeon said
The lymph node can tell us a lot.
And removing you would be tricky
And you’re the only one he’s got.”
 So, the lymph node was sacrificed
And the wound was stapled shut
And morphine calms the intense pain
Coming from my gut.

           

airline-passengers

SOMEWHERE OVER THE PACIFIC
By David Allen

It takes all kinds
crammed into economy class
on this massive 747
hurtling over the Pacific.
Sleep escapes us,
the evening meal and snacks
are devoured,
the feature films
have played out.
Assigned the window seat,
I have already made my two
seatmates stand
for my trips to the head.
And now,
bored,
sleepless,
I turn on the light
to read some Bukowski:

“lovely women walk by
with big hot hips
and warm buttocks and
tight hot everything
praying to be loved
and I don’t even exist.”

The pretty Filipina
sitting next to me,
her petite body comfortably fitting
into the middle seat,
always has a nice smile
when I pass my trash
to the aisle.
She takes note of me turning on
the light and
slips her glasses carefully
out of a leather case
and draws a book
from the seat pocket.
I take a glance,
the Bible;
she turns to Acts 3,4.
I wonder what she’s reading.

The young Japanese man
in the aisle seat
turns on his light
and opens the latest
edition of Popular Science.
He reads about “What’s New.”

We are all stereotypes —
the dirty old man/poet,
the devout Catholic Filipina,
and the science-minded Japanese —
on our way
to someplace else,
coming from
over there.

airline_passenger_portraits

ACCEPTANCE
By David Allen

Flying over the pacific
is never peaceful –
I return to the problems
I left behind when I fled
to the East.

The woman sitting next to me
strikes up a conversation,
she’s the mother of a Marine
assigned to Okinawa
and is returning after a visit
to her first granddaughter.
“She is healthy,
God bless,” she declares.
And this woman’s husband
has a successful electrical business
in St. Louis — “God Bless!” — and life,
“Praise the Lord!”
Is good.

Somewhere in the conversation
I mention I am going to Indiana
for the birth of my second grandchild
and a brief trek to New York
to tout my new book of poetry.

She asks to look at the book
and I find one in my bag,
and, as she reads, I watch
out of the corner of my eye,
pretending to read a magazine
while trying to fathom
her reaction to my poems.
My blood is all over the pages.

I spot her reading
the one about another flight
and the religious Filipina
and scientific Japanese student
sitting next to me, the dirty old man poet
reading Bukowski and dreaming
of smooth, creamy white thighs,
and I wonder what my new seatmate
is thinking.

When she is finished
she mentions the poems are
“interesting,” and handing
the book back asks –
“Have you accepted Jesus
as your personal savior?”

I smile, realizing the conversation is
about to end and answer,
“I tried several times
but he never accepted me.”

And we slept in silence
the rest of the flight.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

(more) CoverMy second book of poetry, “(more)’ is now available on Amazon Kindle. The paperback edition is also available. If you want a signed copy, email me at david@davidallen.nu. Order your copy today! I am like most poets — poor.

http://www.amazon.com/more-David-Allen-ebook/dp/B00N6W3DP8/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=1-2&keywords=%28more%29+by+David+Allen

Here’s a review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Wanting (more), September 2, 2014
By Jenny A. Kalahar “the_story_shop” (Elwood, IN USA)
Here are wonderful, literate poems of longing, wit, wisdom and resistance; justice, injustice, the absurdities of life and of growing older. There are lines full of sensuality at every stage of our existence, and of the waste and usefulness around us. Tinged with the atmosphere of the Orient, they are as luxurious as legs that go all the way up. Mr. Allen’s years as a newspaper man stain his poems with a rougher ink that sticks to your fingers long after you’ve turned his pages. There are losses – parents, loved ones, friends – but there are poems of finding and creating. Children, grandchildren, lovers, partners in crime and art all swirl throughout this collection, humming like a secret humming song. But unlike most hummed songs, these words do matter. They do. So read them now and sing along.

AND HERE’S MY FIRST BOOK

Cover

Like my poetry? Then buy my book, “The Story So Far,” published by Writers Ink Press, Long Island, N.Y. You can find it on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Story-So-Far-David-Allen/dp/0925062480/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397184666&sr=1-13&keywords=the+story+so+far) in paperback and Kindle formats, or by sending me $10 at:

David Allen
803 Avalon Lane
Chesterfield, IN 46017

davidread

A BIT NAÏVE
By David Allen

“That was a nice poem,”
he said. “But, really,
maybe a bit naïve.”
Well, yeah, I wrote it
when I was 22.
“That explains it,”
he said. “You hadn’t lived long
enough to know any better.”

Now I’m in my mid-60s
and I look back at that
young poet and think –
“Man, I wish I could be
that naïve again.
I’d have hope for the future
and I’d still believe
in myself and mankind.

BUY MY LATEST BOOK

(more) Cover

My second book of poetry, “(more)’ is now available on Amazon Kindle. The paperback edition is also available. If you want a signed copy, email me at david@davidallen.nu. Order your copy today! I am like most poets — poor.

http://www.amazon.com/more-David-Allen-ebook/dp/B00N6W3DP8/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=1-2&keywords=%28more%29+by+David+Allen

Here’s a review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Wanting (more), September 2, 2014
By Jenny A. Kalahar “the_story_shop” (Elwood, IN USA)
Here are wonderful, literate poems of longing, wit, wisdom and resistance; justice, injustice, the absurdities of life and of growing older. There are lines full of sensuality at every stage of our existence, and of the waste and usefulness around us. Tinged with the atmosphere of the Orient, they are as luxurious as legs that go all the way up. Mr. Allen’s years as a newspaper man stain his poems with a rougher ink that sticks to your fingers long after you’ve turned his pages. There are losses – parents, loved ones, friends – but there are poems of finding and creating. Children, grandchildren, lovers, partners in crime and art all swirl throughout this collection, humming like a secret humming song. But unlike most hummed songs, these words do matter. They do. So read them now and sing along.

DSCF0017

What I Did on My Summer Vacation in October

or

Someone Painted the Pig’s Balls Blue

By David Allen

Prelude: 

            The paycheck stub
            says use or lose
            so, I choose
            vacation —
            V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N
            This is how it went.

 Day One:

            I read poems
          and the earth moves.
            Miles below us
            the earth rocks —
            no connection.
            “The crowd was
            pretty silent,” I say,
            returning to my seat.
            “We were all wondering
            whether to run,” Ruth
            Ellen answers.
            Again, no connection.

 Day Two:

             Sunday
            rain followed by rain
            with a little more rain,
            a drowsy, kind of
            sleep in day to make
             the transition to vacation.
            Pizza Man,
            up to his ankles in water
            braving the flood
            delivering the meatrageous.
            Diets be damned,
            we’re on vacation!
 
Day Three: 

            Rain at dawn;
            what a surprise!
            It rains cats and dogs,
            fish and frogs;
            it pours in buckets,
            falls straight in sheets,
            it rains blankets —
            hell, it rains the whole damn mattress.
            We shop for last
            minute things and buy
           what impulse brings.
 
Day Four: 

            Off for the fair shores of Okuma,
            North island mountains,
            sandy seashore. We’re off
            to bathe ourselves in sunshine.
            But first, we must survive the rain.
            It rains so hard
            we can’t  tell sea from sky
            and the road is a river
            of water looking
            for an open drain.
            Kadena Circle is a fog of spray
            cars fishtail, wipers
            futilely beat at the rain
            slapping time to
            a Buffett refrain.
            At the Kina slaughterhouse
            and restaurant someone
            painted the pig’s balls blue.
            An omen, ‘cause just outside
            of Nago the blue sky
            breaks through.
            Mountains steamy,
            wisps of clouds play
            in and out the window
            through the folds.
            Salvador Dali slopes,
            cement slabs slide
            down the mountainside —
            no falling rocks here.

 
            The road narrows,
            double lanes hug the coast.
            Shioya Bridge, it pleases me
            to drive through your bright red arches
            before your featureless brother
            takes your place.
 

            And then — Okuma!
            “No bottled beverages
            allowed in this facility.”
            Quick, hide
            the long-necked Becks.
 

            Ruth Ellen, trusted
            navigator, willing scribe,
            says the poem’s taking
            epic proportions:
 

                        By the shores of great Okuma
                        I bit deep into my burger,
                        burger smothered rich with mushrooms
                        covered with a coat of cheese.
                        I bit deep into my burger
                        and let out a moan of pleasure,
                        startling my lunch companion
                        she said, “Well, I see you’re pleased.
                        You never moan so loud when we’re together
                        doing the dance of mare and stallion;
                        (Oh, the pickle and the onion)
                        No, you never moan so loud
                        on the nights we roll in bed.”
                        I could only nod my head,
                        for I was no Indian brave,
                        and it was the Cheeseburger in Paradise
                        that I had craved
                        since before the trip began.
 
Day Five: 

            Inaccuweather calls for
            scattered showers
            interrupted by torrents.
            During a sun break, we
            try snorkeling, but
            Mother Ocean’s strong current
            threatens to carry us away.
            “Not yet, not today!”
            we shout, as we leave Robinson Crusoe
            footprints in the sand.
            “There’s adventure ahead.
            We’re on vacation, dammit!”

 
            The way to beat the clouds
            is to drive into them.
            Cross Highway 58,
            past the turnoff to Higa Falls,
            and up, up, up
            the snaking mountain road
            that twists and turns
            like a woman’s body,
            caressing the curves,
            finessing them with convex
            mirrors, we drive through
            the clouds forming
            in the valleys below.
 
            Mile, after mile
            and not another soul.
            At spots the jungle threatens
             to reclaim the road,
            eliminate all trace of the
            concrete ribbon rising
            up, up, up
            and around and down
            and up again.
            A little traveled trail,
            a patchy asphalt one-lane
            almost-path branches
            off, beckons.
            Dare we take it?
            Dare we not?
 

            Our Honda Shuttle
            was not made for such
            adventure, but handles
            well the trail, so unused
            that at parts vast spider
            webs — spider condos —
            block our passage.
            Rain droplets, like diamonds,
            hang from the silk.
            Ruth Ellen gently
            brushes them aside
            with a big stick.
            Hard work,
            the intricate webs
            are strongly anchored
            and she is sprung back
            a few attempts
            before she clears a path.
            “I didn’t want to ruin
            such art,” she says
            as we roll onward,
            ever upward, under
            the canopy of trees.
 

            Suddenly, bright yellow posts
            mark the edge of the trail.
            “USMC,” they are stamped.
            We wonder what that means.
            But no one said “Keep Out.”
            So we continue our climb.
            Beside us, steep drops
            down the rocky, jungle slopes.
            We stop and stand at the edge
             and all we see is a
            carpet of green, mile after
             mile of mountain,
                        inviting,
                                    embracing,
                                                nurturing.
            We stand, and with
             upraised arms we shout,
            “Top O’ the world, Ma!
                        Top O’ the World!”
 
            The trail ends abruptly,
            an anticlimax at
            a barbwired U.S.
            Army enclosure,
            a microwave tower,
            concrete and steel
            monstrosity, way out
            of place here in Heaven.
 
            Reluctantly, we turn and trek
            back down the trail
            of the banana spiders.
            On the main road,
            on a rare straight stretch,
            a sign in kanji and English shouts:
             “Speed Down!”
            Of course!
            Speed down!
            There is no incessant voice
            from Tokyo, some editor
            demanding 10 more inches
            of copy in 15 minutes.
            There’s no newshole
            for the newswhores to fill.
            Speed Down! and smell the —
            well, hibiscus and pineapple
            will have to substitute for the
            fabled roses.
            Speed Down!
            and smell the ocean.
            “Speed Down!” it shouts,
            (“You’re on vacation.”)

 
Day Six:

            A bad body day means spending the time
            inside, reading to my soulmate as she
            fights the phantom pain the disease insists
            is the price for a few pain-less, or rather
            less pain-filled days.
                        (Pain and fatigue play
                        their game upon the field
                        that is her body;
                        sometimes, like soccer,
                        scoreless, some sweet succor,
                        sometimes running up the score.
                        They are in double digits today.)

 
            Yet, she still serves me a grimace
            with a smile chaser as I
            read her to sleep —
            e.e.cummings’
            “I six nonlectures,”
            A book borrowed from
            a new young poet friend
            just discovering his muse
            (how I envy the paths he has yet to tread,
            the poems and books yet to be read).
 
            And in the reading,
‘           while she dozes and wakes,
            drifts in and out of painfullness
            I discover cummings’
            nonlecture on what
            a poet is:
 

                        “If you wish to follow
                        even at a distance,                
                        the poet’s calling…
                        you’ve got to come out
                        of the measurable doing universe
                        into the unmeasurable house of being.
                        If poetry is your goal
                        you’ve got to forget
                        all about punishments and
                        all about rewards and
                        all about selfstyled obligations
                        and duties and responsibilities
                        etcetra ad infinitum
                        and remember one thing only —
                        that it’s you, nobody else, who
                        determines your destiny and decides your fate.
                        Nobody else can live for you,
                        nor can you live for anyone else.”

 
            And so, I read to my wife,
            my muse, my partner in
            life’s discourse and spend
            the most pleasurable day
            of my vacation.

 
            At night, dinner with a sunset for dessert.
            The thing I like about sunsets best
            is, just as the leading lady leaves the stage,
            the whole sky explodes in colorfullness,
            an ovation for another day well done.
            My love loves best
            this dimming of the day
            when all cares and pain
            like butter melt away
            and, like an old friend,
            the night comes to cloak our nakedness
            with a fine silk robe.

  

Day Seven:
 
            On the Seventh Day I wish
            I could say we rested,
            but instead we drove
            as the sun shone strong
            back home to where our worries
            and cares waited, pouting children
            mad we didn’t take them along.
 

Okuma, Okinawa

October 1998

 

This is a poem from my first book of poetry, “The Story So Far,” available on Amazon.com.

           

USMC-M-Okinawa-OFC

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.

THE NAMES
By David Allen

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

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

Names
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
lost.

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.
Silent.
Respectful.

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.
Meditate.

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
like,
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?

Grandfathers,
babies,
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?

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

Read our names,
remember us.

6025

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 Amazon.com. Or get a signed copy by  emailing me at david@davidallen,nu.

CLOSING NIGHT

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

…….alley 3

CLOSING NIGHT
By David Allen

Goodnight
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.

 

LENT

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

Lent

LENT
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.

MALL TRIP

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

Mounds mall 2

MALLTRIP
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.

MOUNDS MALL

 THE FUTURE?