Archive for May, 2014

Another Mothers Day Poem

Mom and grandkids

Doris Allen and her three Hoosier grandkids, Fort Wayne, IN, 1987.

FOR OUR MOTHERS

Sometimes when we move far away
We are able to see more clear
The people and places that molded us,
It’s as if they were right here.
And as we examine the days now past,
We are finding this simple truth –
Without our loving mothers’ arms
We would not have survived our youth.

By David Allen

ANOTHER MOTHERS DAY POEM

Me and Mom 1949

Me and Mom, Charleston, S.C., 1948.

THE DAY MOM DIED

The day Mom died
My doorbell rang
Twice, two times in
The afternoon.

But when I bound from my chair
There was no one there,
Or anywhere near,
As I scanned the scene
For signs of a prank or the post.

After the second signal
I tested the bell for a short
Or some other cause.
But it worked just fine,
No gust or glitch had
Had set it abuzz.

Hours later I got the word
Mom departed this cold world.

My wife suggested
Mom stopped by our island,
Which swarms with ghosts,
To say goodbye to her oldest son,
One child absent from the last bedside.
And I just shrugged,
And would still, except —

The day they turned our Mom to ash
The doorbell rang again.
And her grandson answered only to find
No one waiting to come in.

And in the months that followed,
The doorbell never repeated its
Eerie ring, sounding only
To announce a package delivered
Or a neighbor stopping to say “Hi.”

I guess Mom said her final goodbye.

By David Allen
Okinawa, Japan

Mom and Me 1948
Me and my Mom, Charleston, S.C., 1948

I NEVER WROTE A POEM ABOUT MY MOTHER

I never wrote a poem
about my mother,
even though dozens about dad
flowed from pens filled
with ink blood red.
After all, he planted the seeds
of fear and hopelessness, deep
strong roots grown in furrows
slashed into pliant flesh
by belts stinging,
quick backhands,
cutting words, while
mom protested in silence,
condoning the conditioning years
later saying —
“But afterwards he always cried.”

I never wrote a poem for my mother,
though I love her and think fondly
of the bond we formed in later years.
What was there to write?
I tried to protect her once.
I was nine and my Dad, drunk again,
had raised his hand one too many times
and, as he stumbled from the house,
my mom damning him to the fiery pit,
I chased him down the steps,
swatting his back with the brush
end of a broom;
trying to sweep him from our lives,
I suppose, though he’s here still
long after buried in a veteran’s grave.

I never wrote a poem about my mother,
she kept us together, somehow,
through all those years,
For what I never understood.
I relished the times I was farmed
out to uncles, aunts and my
Nan Nan’s strong, protecting arms.

I never wrote a poem about my mother
who never told me what to be,
just follow the rules
as muddled as they are,
“Stay out of trouble, David
or you’ll anger you father.”
He was so quick to anger,
haunted by war ghosts
and failures too numerous to name;
a dozen jobs, a dozen homes,
a dozen shattered promises.
I stood with her often on the welfare lines,
bringing home the state dole of
oily peanut butter in gallon cans,
powdered milk, cornmeal
and the white beans that gagged me
every time.

I never wrote a poem for my mother,
though she saved me once by moving us
to another county when
the streets beckoned and threatened
to steal the soul of her oldest son.
She never said why we moved
and I always assumed it was to hide
from the collection agents who came
round to our door as often
as the milkman and the mail.

I never wrote a poem to my mother,
who behind the scenes later
cut the strings, let me
find my own way, any way
that was better than
the stifling daily struggle
she suffered alone with seven
children and failing health.

I never wrote a poem about my mother
who stoically now in her Golden Years,
a widow, children grown, has finally
allowed herself to live her own life,
with no regrets, no sighs of could-have-beens,
but says, “That’s just the way things were
and I did the best I could.”

I never wrote a poem for my mother
who never taught me to hug,
or love, but managed still
to make sure we always had food
and clothes and a bed,
where in dreams I escaped
the dread of the Dad-filled days
until I was strong enough to run.

I never wrote a poem for my mother
and still I wonder why?

By David Allen
The first of several poems for Mothers’ Day weekend

BIRTHDAY BATTLE

Posted: May 8, 2014 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,

clydea - Copy
Years Ago

BIRTHDAY BATTLE

Sand falls,
Watch hands beckon,
A shadow creeps.
Time is skewering us all
To the wall.
To the wall boys!
To the wall!
Man the ramparts!
Sound the alarm!
Push them back!
Stop time!
Aaiiiiiieeeee!!!!
It’s no use!
Fall back! Fall back!
Hair recedes, grays.
Eyes, myopic, bag.
Arches fall,
Posture slouches.
Oh, the horror, the horror!
The….

(Ah, forget about it,
It’s just another year.
Where’s the cake?)

David Allen  Don Gallus (2) 3

Don Gallus and me in an Old San Juan bar in 1966.

reandme

Me and my muse on Okinawa, 1998

My birthday is this Thursday (May 8). A while back I wrote this poem about turning 50. It became the title of my first book of poetry, published by Writers Ink Press in 2004. You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Story-Far-David-Allen/dp/0925062480/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1399425268&sr=8-9&keywords=story+so+far


THE STORY SO FAR

Over 50,
Damn!
Now I’ve done it;
gone full blown
into the middle of
my sixth decade.
Weird to think the toes
that toddled into the second half
of this century
are stubbing themselves
on the doorstep
of the new millennium.

Like the Grateful Dead
liked to sing:
“What a long, strange
trip it’s been.”

A child of the South,
raised in the North,
because my Yankee Dad
fell in love with television.
Grew up on Long Island
when there was still room
for clammers, before you could
walk across the harbor on the decks
of the boats of the rich.

Traveled a lot–
Lived in the Southeast,
the Mid-Atlantic,
Virginia mountains and shore,
D.C., Williamsburg,
Fort Wayne, Indiana—
dubbed that cold city the
“Crack Capital of the Midwest.”

Lots of traveling
through two marriages,
five kids and four dogs;
finally getting it right
on the subtropical shores
of Okinawa.

Caught the news Jones
as a kid peddling papers.
Made it a living after trying out
being a busboy, dishwasher, cook,
sailor, postal worker, pump jockey,
shipping clerk, disc jockey,
student, activist, cabby,
surveyor.

Finally found work
on a weekly;
rhyming beat,
sports and courts,
at $120 a week.
Caught that news Jones bad,
still need that daily fix
only a byline gives.
Thirty years on deadline,
almost half a life;
printer’s ink for blood;
thick skin, thin wallet.
Press cards, a passport
to the adrenaline rush
a good story brings.

Writing just felt right.
Still does.

Fifty-plus years—
where’d they go?
Playing war with sticks and clods of mud;
protesting war with shouts, upraised fists;
Washington demonstrations and
Central Park Love-Ins;
Nights at the Fillmore East,
some new band called Led Zeppelin
playing to half a house;
Woodstock, bluegrass festivals;
experiments with hallucinogens and booze
about as carelessly considered
as choosing eggs or cereal
for breakfast.

Fifty-plus years—
always observing, writing;
boxes full of unfinished journals,
jotted thoughts that somehow found their way into
stories, poems, letters.
Started Old Friends, a slip into
publishing, providing poets
and photographers a place
to lay it all out;
great idea at a bad time
for cash-poor gypsies.
Scattered poems published since
until running into the Eat Write folks.
This feels good,
think I’ll hang out a while.

Fifty-plus years—
seen a lot;
murder, mayhem, floods and fires,
twisters tearing up trailers,
typhoons triumphant,
earthquake rocking the house:
boys laughing, what a ride!
girls crying, what a horror!
Seen the bare-breasted women of Yap,
Hoosiers bundled, braving a wintry blast;
the hookers and whores of San Juan,
Manila and all ports in between;
saw Sodom and Gomorra in
a Thailand town called Pattaya;
ate political chicken dinners,
drank iced rum milk from a chilled coconut;
saw Santa drop sleds of Christmas cheer
parachuting from the rear of an old cargo plane
as the natives of Palau sang Christmas carols
in their native tongue.

Fifty-plus years—
saw love come and go,
knocking at my door
and running away.
Saw hunger, but not lately.
Saw poverty, but that’s past.
Had health and heartache;
still cry easily.
Saw a mother torn from her daughter
and sit on the floor tearing Bibles.
Saw the bodies of little girls,
naked, mutilated,
torn from life and left for dead
in some rain swollen ditch.
Saw a woman go insane.

Fifty-plus years—
saw a lot of smiles,
heard much hearty laughter.
wrote my own wedding
once I found my soul mate;
didn’t matter she gave me only two years,
I knew we’d be together forever.
We still are, fifteen years later,
living in a house of love.
I’m going to microchip her soul
so the search will be easier next go `round.

Fifty-plus years—
haven’t done too bad;
saw all my babies born,
cut the cords on two;
taught them how to enjoy good music—
Dylan and Jimmy Buffett;
good food—pizza, cheeseburgers,
chicken and dumplings like my mother made;
taught them how to ride bikes, watch horror movies,
laugh at “professional” wrestling
and tell bad jokes.
Saw them grow,
saw them go.
They all do, mine just left early.

Fifty-plus years—
where’d they go?
And why don’t I feel old?

Fifty-plus years—
hell, it’s only time
and it’s all what you put into it.
I’ve crammed a lot into my small space.
I still have much to do—
finish that novel,
write that hit song,
live on a beach;
haven’t given my lady
half the loving she deserves.
But that’s okay,
I’ve got plenty of time.

POSTSCRIPT

That was decades ago
and, while my lady still serves as my muse
life, as is its wont, chose another path.
Poor health and the steady decline
of newspapers brought me back
to Hoosierland, where retirement
is easier on my thin wallet.

Here, I’ve seen a city’s decline
abandoned by the industry
that once made it great.
I saw a home stripped of metal
by a meth-head renter,
expediting the owner to bargain
with a bank for a deed in lieu of foreclosure.
 
I saw a woman lying bloody
on the living room floor,
her throat damaged by alcohol;
a young man jump out of a moving car
to warn people in a quiet neighborhood
of his pending crucifiction;
and a parade of parents on the tv news
arrested for murder in the neglect
of their young children.
 
I fought cancer and won
and survived three spinal operations
that left me shorter and cane-bound.
I finally jumped full-time into poetry, creating a blog
and two books and editing a literary ezine.
 
Which brings me to now.
being active with other statewide scribes
to make sure poetry stays alive.

 

POSTSCRIPT II:

We finally lived on in a house on a hill overlooking the beach. But when I decided to retire Okinawa was too expensive to live, so we trekked back across the Pacific and half the U.S. to settle in a nice house in Chesterfield, Indiana, mostly to be near our other kids and grandchildren. I am now a freelance writer, full-time poet, and cancer survivor. Life here hasn’t always been great, but we’re learning to adapt to the cold, crazy politics and everything else life may throw at us. So, the ocean may be far away, but there’s woods in our backyard and a path that leads to a little river.

Ishikawa_City_from_Mount_Ishikawa

okinawa1

OKINAWA MORNING

7 a.m.
The sun rises
lazily over Ishikawa,
blazing yellow bands of sunlight
spread apart the curtain of clouds
that enclosed the city in darkness;
suffused sunbeams cast rays
upon the warm waters of the bay,
where an oil tanker glides slowly
over the mirror-smooth surface,
winding its way
to a finger of a pier jutting
out from the rocky shore.
Up here, on a hill far above
the awakening city, a hawk
slips by on an updraft
and mourning doves coo,
silencing the tree frogs and geckos
who cloaked the night with their croaking
cacophonous clamor.
When the cooing halts, I can hear
the gentle whisper of the wind
caressing the jungle foliage of our hillside retreat.
Directly below, no one invades the
calm of the dew-covered golf course,
its luscious greens pale compared to the riot of
the hundred shades of green
of the jungle and the sugar cane
and tea fields that blanket
the land leading to the bay.
Yellow hibiscus flowers open
and bid “Ohaiyo gozaimasu,
genki desu ka?”

Ah, it’s morning at the Cabin Serendip
and all is “genki desu.”

By David Allen

fleabga6

FLEABAG1

FLEABAG MOTEL

Bukowski would have loved this place
A real fleabag motel
No fridge
No ice,
Some cigarette-burned
Ancient RCA TV
Bolted to a low bureau,
Strips of pressed wood
Peeled off,
Sits next to a Gideon Bible;
Lamps tilt at weird angles,
Chairs of ripped fake leather,
In worse shape than Salvation
Army retreads;
Grey-white walls marred
With black boot heel marks
Near the door;
Dirty handprints
Smudge the wall near the bed;
A bullet hole marks the wall
Just above the TV;
The plastic covers of the electrical sockets
Are cracked, split;
Brown water stains the gray ceiling tiles.
Yeah, this is a Buk place,
A real roach motel.
A six pack, maybe something harder,
Would make it habitable.
Out back, on the other side of the parking lot,
The steady clickityclack and haunting whistle
Of a freight train as it passes a crossing
Makes this dump almost romantic.
Well, at least the sheets are clean.
And anyway,
All I need is a place to sleep
And shower
And shit.
It’s perfect
For all that.

FLEABAG II

10:40 p.m.
Just getting settled
For bed.
Phone rings
Hello?
“Hello, I need you to come
To the front desk.”
Indian accent,
This place is run by Paul’s Pakis.
Why?
“You need to fill out
Some papers.”
What?
“For the police.”
What?
“You need to come here,
Something about your neighbor in 234.”
What?
“I don’t know, you need to come down here
Right away.”
All right.

I hang up,
Confused,
Put my shirt on,
Grab my wallet and keys –
Whoa!
Maybe that’s a bad move.
Some mugger might be waiting
Just outside the door.
But I might need an ID.
I take out my money, credit cards,
Slip them under the mattress.
(Strange, I’d never think of doing that in Okinawa.
But in this rundown Indiana fleabag motel
Bullet holes and boot heels marking the walls,
I worry.)

Maybe the call was a hoax.
A ploy to get me to open the door.
Wait, what if it’s really the cops
And they need my contacts in this burg?
Maybe I should take my address book.
Nah, if they need them I’ll just go back to the room.

I open my door,
Step out,
No one around except
The trash-fed stray
Cat that hangs around the stairs.
She meows loudly,
Scurries away.
I descend the cracked concrete stairs,
Glance at my rented car.
No stranger there;
Bright lights allow
No shadowed lairs.
I round the corner
To the front office
Door’s locked.
I spot a woman inside
Waving me to a security window
Like a self-serve gas station at night.
I rap on the window
And a Paki-Indian-Bangledeshi
Man walks up.
“Can I help you?”
Yeah, what do you want?
“What do YOU want?”
I dunno, someone called me
Told me to come down here
And fill out some papers.
“Sorry, no one called.”
Someone did.
“Not from here, my friend.”
But someone said there was a complaint
From room 234.
“I am sorry, my friend, but no one called.”
No call?
“Someone did the
Same thing yesterday.
Sorry.”

I go back to the
$25 a night room
With mold in the shower
And crusting the
Air conditioner.

I am convinced the mugger
Had positioned himself
To strike when I return.
But I am greeted only
By stray cat
In the open garbage bin
Maybe he’s already in my room
Maybe he slipped in there
While I was gone and
He’s cleaned me out.
I walk around the corner
To the stairway,
Stare at the door to 234 —
No sign of life
I open my door,
Silence.
No one here,
Nothing missing,
Just one big
Fucking pain in
The ass practical joke.

I’ve been robbed of nothing
Except my sleep.

By David Allen