Archive for March, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, marks the 69th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Okinawa, the last and bloodiest battle in the Pacific during World War 11. Here’s a poem I wrote about the battle while covering the 50th anniversary events on Okinawa when I was the news bureau chief for Stars and Stripes.





Landing 2



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. Shwartz,
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 Whitington…

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.


Posted: March 29, 2014 in Poetry
Tags: , ,



Her legs go
all the way

That’s all
you need
to know.

shopping cart


Is this the end, stuck
In a muddy, smelly streamlet
At the bottom of a hill?
I can hear traffic on the road above
And sense the occasional pedestrian
Striding down the sidewalk.
I don’t think they can see me
Lying on my side, rusting,
A bit banged up, missing a wheel.

It wasn’t always like this.
Not too long ago I was popular,
Busy with my fellow carts
At the local supermarket,
Gliding down the aisles
On well oiled wheels,
Shiny and new, proudly
Accepting the groceries
Placed in my basket,
Giving children a safe ride.
Why, once I even had my picture taken
When I spent two hours slowly rolling
In front of a woman carefully checking
Her coupons until she bought $500
Worth of goods for $35.

But things took a turn for the worst
One night when one of the bag boys
Gathering carts in the parking lot
Missed me – I was hidden by a parked van
At the far end – and I spent a cold night
Shivering and lonely.
The next day, some kids found me.
Two of them sat in my basket while another
Pushed as fast as he could, making
Dangerous turns and nearly toppling me over.
Then they found one of my brother carts
And played demolition derby with us.
I hated smashing into him, but
I had no choice.

Later, they abandoned me
Next to a large trash bin behind
The market, where a homeless man,
Dumpster diving late one night,
Filled me with his belongings;
Bent cans, rotting produce and
Cardboard boxes and newspapers
That would serve as his bed under a highway bridge.

His name was Moe and I was with him for a long time,
Pushed down the backstreets during the day,
While he collected bottles and cans to cash in
For some booze at the local liquor store;
Sometimes parked me outside the Mission
While he copped a free meal.
But mostly, we spent the time scouting
New dumpsters to scour.

I started to deteriorate, rust,
My right front wheel trembled,
Sometimes shaking uncontrollably.
And then one day, while pushing me
Slowly along the sidewalk
That now seems to tower so far above me,
Moe stumbled and fell and
With one last push I tumbled down the hill.
I heard sirens and never heard from Moe again.

I hope he’s all right.
I enjoyed the nights with him and his friends,
Getting drunk on bottles of cheap wine,
Listening to their stories of past adventures.
I really miss those times,
Maybe even more than
My grocery glory days.
I loved being able to travel, see new sights,
Belong to somebody.
I wonder what’s next.
Is this really the end?

By David Allen

My interview for my Stars and Stripes story about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. At the time (summer 2009) I ran the Okinawa News Bureau for the daily newspaper. Now I am retired and living in Central Indiana. I can’t stand the goddamn cold!


Posted: March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized
The readings extended past the Open Mic meetings in the Gate Two Street Bar. Here's Mike reading outside The Jet.

The readings extended past the Open Mic meetings in the Gate Two Street Bar. Here’s Mike reading outside The Jet.

Michael De Vito Jr.

Michael De Vito Jr.

Today is the 15th anniversary of Poetry Day. So, here’s a poem I wrote about a poet friend, Michael De Vito Jr., who tirelessly hosted live mic poetry nights in the Gate Two Street bars of Okinawa City.

By David Allen

Another poet’s gone today.
The light seems a bit dimmer.
The tropic colors have faded,
As if the island already mourns.
The words across this lined page
Cannot capture the true loss.
He’s gone and with him
Goes a bit of our group’s glow.
We’re the one’s left behind
To pick up the shards of words
That didn’t fit into his small suitcase
We’re the ones who will tell tales
Of poetic nights of bliss,
Pacing the floor like prize fighters,
Waiting for another turn in the ring.
Oh, but the spotlight’s snapped off
And the stage is dark.
The pumped-up poet,
“The Mike,” has slipped
Away to that Broadway isle
And we are left to raise a pint
And drink to his memory.




Lot Lizard Lilly
Never had much luck
Selling herself cheap
Limping from truck to truck
Parked behind the diesel
Pumps off I-69.
Rapping on the windows
Promising good times.
Her good times
Are far behind her,
Although make-up hides her age
It took several lifetimes
To get her to this stage
The prom Queen and child bride
Are parts that she has played
Needles and abandoned children
Led her to this stage.
The downslide began with marriage
The result of belly swelling
Her abusive jockstrap husband
Scarred her beyond all telling.
Pills and alcohol helped her forget,
But only for a while
The blows she took from fists and meth
Tore away her winning smile.
Other lizards laugh at her plight
She plies the cheapest trade
A pittance for a quickie
Is the most she ever made.
Night and day she sells herself
Inside the crowded cabs
And not one John feels sorry
For using her so bad.


Posted: March 16, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,



Winter reveals
The trees’ inner nature,
Like x-rays showing
Their intricate systems
Spread out like veins,
Nerves and bones.
No leaves to mask their age.
Young trees, slender branches
Lifting straight into the sky,
As if in prayer or celebration.
Older trees, thicker branches
Some bowed, knotty, amputations,
Arteries eaten by unseen invaders;
In their upper reaches, squirrel and bird
Nests appear as cancerous growths.
And then there are the dead trees,
Obese, torn trunks, bark like peeling skin,
Branches akimbo, some detached
Resting in their neighbors arms.
Like monuments, crosses.
These trees tell a tale of the final days,
The ravaging we all face in the end.

By David Allen

This winter has been horribly cold! Damn the Polar Vortex. It reminds me of another time I ventured from my subtropical home in Okinawa to visit my kids. Here’s the resulting poem.


Goddamn it’s cold!
Bone fucking chilling
Oh God, please don’t let me
have to live in this your forsaken
place again!
It’s too goddamn cold!
I just saw my motherfugging breath!
This is proof that we should
embrace global warming,
not fear it.
Warm me up Scotty!

Called my love, teeth chattering
across the continent and over the ocean
to our subtropical paradise.
It warmed my evening.
I’ll call again tomorrow
from some Pennsylvania motel
attempting to warm myself up.
JESUS it’s cold!

Breakfast at a Cracker Barrel
In My-God-It’s-Freezing Fort Wayne.
Who the hell ever thought
grits was an acceptable breakfast food?
But the coffee refills were free
and the two eggs over easy
and biscuits and gravy
and turkey sausages assuaged
my cold- numbed soul.

“A month of this?”
my innervoice asked.
“I know,” I answered.
“Hell has just frozen over.”