The Girl at the Door

Posted: March 23, 2019 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , , ,

GIRL

THE GIRL AT THE DOOR
By David Allen

I still wonder how she is,
her picture haunts me.

I never met her
I don’t know much about her
our paths crossed briefly
decades ago.

It was on the Philippine island of Leyte
when I was a reporter covering
the 50th anniversary
of MacArthur and the Americans
landing on the island’s shore
to wrest the country back  
from the Japanese.

I was riding in the back of a Jeepney
crammed with press
on the way to a gala feast
at the lavish estate of Imelda Marcos,
the widowed millionairess
of the country’s criminal president.
The car’s radio blared “Highway to Hell”
as we laughed and sang along.
Enraptured by the centuries-old buildings,
I snapped two rolls of film
as we careened down the narrow highway.

It wasn’t until weeks later,
back home in Japan,
that I came across her image
while rifling through negatives
of the trip.

The frail girl stood in the narrow crack
of an old wooden door slightly ajar,
the arched entry to a rundown building.
It was badly weathered, splintered,
with a rusted metal bar nailed across the center
about four inches over the little girl’s head.
The door dwarfed her.
She stood silently in the crack
wearing a dirty, frayed, gray,
floor-length dress.
Watching our passing,
her sad, piercing eyes
were unfocused in
an empty stare of despair,

I still wonder
about the Leyte lass
I caught on film.
Did she see me,
a soon-to-be drunk
caricature of a newsman
unaware of the poverty I passed?

Occasionally my thoughts
stray to her haunting visage.
When celebrating my own daughter’s
birthday with ice cream, cake, and presents,
or watching her play with her dolls,
I sometimes pause
and wonder how, or if,
that island girl survived.

 

NOTE: This poem was a challenge by The Last Stanza Poetry Association to write a poem based on a photo. It made me think of the time I was in the Philippines covering the 50th anniversary of MacArthur’s landing for my paper, Stars and Stripes.

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