Archive for April, 2019

NOTRE DAME

HISTORY BURNS
By David Allen

The past went up in flames last night
lighting up the Paris sky.
A pyre birthing a billowing plume of smoke
as eight centuries of human religious
and engineering history rose to heaven
as bystanders sang sad hymns.

An accident during renovation
resulted in the devastation
and only the massive stone outer walls
with flying buttresses survived.
The gross gargoyles perched on the walls,
protecting the Gothic treasure from outside forces,
failed to scare away the danger from within.

Destruction of the famous place of prayer
preyed on the hearts of those who watched
in person or a world away glued to their TVs.
An ocean away, Americans cried and flooded
social media with their photo memories
of grander days visiting the world’s most famous church.
“Our Lady of Paris is in flames,” the French President cried.
“It’s sad to see this part of us has burned.”

The architectural wonder has seen fire and destruction in the past —
Protestant factions vandalized it several times,
smashing stained glass windows and ripping heads off statues.
And in the wake of the French Revolution, it was used
as a sanctuary and food warehouse for the poor.
But it was always rebuilt and rose in stature as a World Heritage site.
Officials shook their heads when the flames were doused,
announcing they would not know for weeks
what art treasures and religious relics were lost or
whether the cathedral would ever rise from the ashes.

How ironic the fire came during the Holy Easter week.

I Am the Dog

Posted: April 14, 2019 in Poetry
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I AM THE DOG
By David Allen

I am the dog you rescued from the streets
and, though I know you cannot receive my thoughts,
I am sure somehow, someday, you’ll just know
I fell in love with you — and the family — instantly.
We dogs can sense good bipeds.
The scent of the other dogs that had you
throughout the years and lives
told me you were good and special.

I love the way you let me stand my forelegs on your lap,
leaning with excited breaths to kiss your face,
even when it interrupts your meal, or reading, or watching the tube.
I love to poke my head through the paper held before you
to ask if we can play another hour or two
of fetch, or tug-it, or please-let-me-out.
I know you secretly want my attention more
than even the crossword puzzles you plead to let you finish.
And I love lying on your lap luxuriating in your touch,
the massages up and down my back,
and scratching places too hard for me to reach.

And the yard! Oh my, the yard!
I love the holes I dig to bury bones and other treats,
the sticks and branches to tear and gnaw,
the plastic rain gutter I like to displace and drag
through the mud to new hiding sites,
the pillow from the swing I ripped,
strewing stuffing about like newly fallen snow.

I love the tasty treats you give me,
the bones, the rawhide,
the baked bone-shaped cookies
and, oh, that fat covered pig thigh
that took me a month to gnaw clean.

And so many other treats — the toys!
I love to tear up the old stuffed bunny,
cotton flying, ears, eyes, and nose
ripped off in the tugging game
(and I apologize deeply for destroying the pillows
and the arm of the antique chair
when you were gone.
I did not know that was not allowed.)

Oh, and I love the little bipeds that visit,
I greet them with wild tail wagging and jumps up
to tell them I will always be their special playmate.

But there are some things I hate,
like that collar with the metal fittings
that clang on the wooden floor
when I drop for a nap near the door,
and the loud noises you make toward me
for reasons I don’t comprehend.

But, still, it’s love I feel
And when I die, I’ll be sure
to leave a contented scent on your heart
for other dogs to sense.
And I’ll tell those in the dog spirit world
about the good times that I spent here,
that there are good bipeds to like and lick,
despite the horrid tales by that grouchy pug
who still writes poems full of contempt and hate
for Billy Collins, his former keeper,

I read that poet dog’s rhymes and lines
And can say as matter-of-fact
He’s not much of a bard, his heart’s too hard,
He’s really nothing but a hack.

 

NOTE: This poem is in response to Billy Collins’ poem “Revenant.”

The Revenant
By: Billy Collins

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you—not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and—greatest of insults—shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner—
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

 

FESTIVAL OF TOMBS

Posted: April 6, 2019 in Poetry
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FESTIVAL OF TOMBS
By David Allen

I love festivals and have attended many
from the most famous, Woodstock
a weekend of music, love, and highs,
to booths of pioneer crafts,
delicious Midwest treats and trappers tents
at Fort Wayne’s Johnny Appleseed celebration.
But the one event that impressed me the most
was the annual “Shimi” celebration of life
at Okinawa family tombs.

It’s a Spring cleaning of the soul.
In April families can be seen hard at work
neatening the areas around large tombs,
many shaped like a turtle’s back,
preparing for a weekend ceremony
to honor the dead.

It’s not the quiet, reverential scene you might expect.
Instead, they are picnics, blankets piled high with traditional
Okinawan food, cold drinks, and awamori, the island’s rice wine.
Children laugh and play as relatives catch up on the year
After a ceremony that includes prayers and offerings
of food, drinks, and scraps of burned money
left for the deceased to use during the coming year,
the lilt of a sanshin, the island’s three-stringed banjo, fills the air
along with folk songs sung in the local dialect.

Many tombs, which contain the dried bones of the dead, are centuries old.
The turtleback shape dates back to the island’s glory days and trade with China,
where they represented the turtle’s long lives.
Others believe the shape is a woman’s womb,
from which everyone is born and eventually returns.
Decades ago the tombs provided shelter from the storm of war.

The Shimi gatherings are times of joy, families honoring folks gone by
Who they believe watch out for them and prepare the way for the next life.
It became my favorite fest, except, perhaps, the colorful parade of prostitutes,
I mean, gifted geisha gals –In Naha’s ancient “comfort zone”
For sailors far from home.

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