Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Railroad Crossing

MEDITATION STOP
By David Allen

Waiting at the train crossing,
a chance to meditate,
ridding pent up stress
to the clickity-clack staccato
of metal twirling on metal.
The alarms keep dinging
and the engineer wails
on his horn as the
flashing red lights hypnotize
the waiting drivers,
who impatiently
lay on their horns
at the dazed lead driver
when crossing arms are raised
and the bells are silenced.

ScottApril

Musings on Scott’s Departure
By David Allen

The poets are gathered again tonight
Jet-streams of thought are taking flight
Riding on rhythms of rhyming verse,
Sometimes free-form, some long, some terse.
Poems to soothe the savage beast
Or to assist in the beast’s release.
And there’s nothing more savage on a given night
Than poems by Scott – Sir Walter’s right
On target with tomes that suck you in
Like quicksand or a desert whirlwind.
Our sorrow tonight is in Scott’s departing
Just as most of us were starting
To see the sanity in his weavings,
Like seeing the pattern in a spider’s web.
(Getting past the horror of the spider’s leavings.)
“Oh, what a tangled web he weaves!”
But now, I confess, I once did deceive
When I told him he was good –
“But not that good!”
Now with his parting I have to say
How wrong I was that beer-filled day
Let me say it now and not be misunderstood –
He is that good! He is that good.
And he’ll be sorely missed.

Cabin Serendip, Okinawa
Aug. 6, 1999

frogprince

Frog Legs
(A Modern Fairy Tale)
By David Allen

Without realizing the consequences
d.g. leaned out as far as he could,
arm outstretched in some mad play
to catch the ring of fate.
The carousel spun dizzily
no one else could grab the ring,
the hare-lipped troll in
d.g.’s employ had seen to it
that everyone else on the ride
was an amputee.

Nothing was being left
to chance, the prize came
into sight. d.g. stretched,
leaned to snag fate —
Damn! It was gone.
The French war veteran,
a laughing old fart with four
stumps and a backbrace,
had snatched the ring with his
considerable nose.

They came for d.g. when
the machine stopped,
but he was already gone,
disappearing into an alley,
his left leg dragging lifeless
behind him.

The hangman would have to wait.

d.g. was visibly shaken by his
experience with the ghouls of conscience
and the ring of fate.
sweat poured from his pained brow
as he limped to the fire escape
at the end of the alley
that led to his room above
the kitchen door of
Chun’s Chinese Restaurant.

Joe Chun was there, emptying the remains
of several skinned felines
into a dumpster, but
he had his back to the alley and
missed the frog’s entrance.

The frog waited for d.g.
to turn the corner before he spoke.
“What’s your hurry, friend?”
the frog asked, stepping
lightly from the shadows.
He was dressed nattily, after the fashion
of enchanted princes, and smiled at d.g.,
who had stopped dead in his tracks.
“Oh dear,” said the frog, staring
at the limp body.
“Why does this always happen to me?”

The frog knelt and checked d.g.’s pulse,
it was slow and weak.
Then he slowly, sensuously placed
his moist lips over d.g.’s face
and tenderly caressed his eyelids
with his long, sticky tongue.

“Uh, where, what?” was all
d.g. could say as his eyes opened
and he saw a four-foot frog
dancing a little jig of joy.
“You have to be the weirdest thing
i ever saw,” d.g. said, standing shakily.
“I am here to give great news,” the frog began.
“I can fulfill three wish….”
Joe Chun’s hatchet made a swift impression
on his mind before he could finish.
“Oh, what crazy frog legs
we have tonight,” Joe said.

“Count me out, man,” d.g. answered.
“I don’t think i could stomach any French food.
Goodnight, Joe.”
“You goodnight,” Joe replied,
dragging the frog corpse toward the restaurant.
“Me good eat.”

 

Note: This probably is proof that being forced by a school psychologist in the 6th grade to respond to a series of ink blots was probably justified.

 

d64adf54c8853c2cfaaf85bd33c5970b

THE POETIC POL
By David Allen

It was 1971,
or maybe ’72,
when Eugene McCarthy
came to my college campus
to speak about his run for president,
and the continuing war in Vietnam.
And those in the audience,
who cut their hair and bought suits
from the Salvation Army
in order to be “Clean for Gene”
back in those heady days of 1968,
raised their right fists in the air and
yelled “Right On!”
 
The former senator from Minnesota
smiled and raised his arms in the air,
and gave the audience the Peace Sign.
Later, sitting with the staff of the campus
weekly newspaper in the cafeteria,
the old pol readied himself for questions
he’d hear thousands of time before.
But he was taken aback when the editor of the paper,
his long blonde hair falling to his shoulders
and a mischievous gleam in his sky blue eyes,
said he was tired of politics.
“Do you have any of your poetry with you?”
the young man asked.
McCarthy’s smile broadened.
“Sure,” he said, reaching into his coat pocket
and pulling out a thin chapbook.
“Please share some with us,” the editor said.

“This is called Courage After Sixty,”
McCarthy said.

“Now it is certain
There is no magic stone
No secret to be found
One must go
With the mind’s winnowed learning…”
 
And he held his small audience in rapt attention
for the next half hour, commenting
when he left that it was the best
time he had spent with students in years.
 
quote-the-glove-has-been-thrown-to-the-ground-the-last-choice-of-weapons-made-a-book-for-one-eugene-mccarthy-251851

 

Freight Yard 1

ON THE RAILROAD
By David Allen

I spent a good part of my youth
playing on the railroad
all my livelong days…

When I lived in Roslyn Heights,
on Long Island’s North Shore,
the tracks were my turf.
Located just a block from
our housing project,
the tracks were where I trolled
for soda bottles to cash in at the local deli.
They are where my friends got in trouble
for dropping rocks from a bridge
onto cars using the new expressway.

The freight yard was where we pretended
to be outlaws, running atop the empty boxcars,
jumping from car to car, shouting
“This is a holdup!”
Once I even rode a boxcar to the next town,
pretending I was a hobo, singing Woody Guthrie songs.

A few years later, living in Huntington Station,
the tracks were where we placed
pennies, collecting them after they
had been flattened by commuter trains.
As teens we rode the trains to the Big Apple,
our playground during the formative years.

Once I waited on the platform
with a hundred other commuters,
on my way to an internship
as a computer programmer.
The train came, but I stayed,
the scene was too depressing
to make it a career.

The last train episode I lived
before I escaped to other adventures,
was as a shipping clerk in the next town.
Every morning I boarded the train and hoped
the conductor wouldn’t get to me before my stop
so I could use the ticket some other day.

Commutersimage

Top-027.bmp
Shooting an air torpedo aboard the USS New York City

THE WORLD WAS MY WORKPLACE
By David Allen

I was asked about my workplace
What was it like?

Well, there were desks and file cabinets,
Reporter cubicles in lines,
copy editors grouped in a circle.
Typedancing was the newsroom music,
Metal keys slapping rubber platens
With the constant clickity clack background music
Coming from the wire room, created by machines
Spinning out the national news.
Years later, silence descended when computers took over;
A serenity broken only when a reporter cursed loudly
At his phone when a key source clammed up.

But there were other workplaces for me
So many  more …

There was speeding down a narrow Thailand road
On the way to the Bridge over the River Kwai,
Dodging rundown buses taking up most of both lanes
As “Highway to Hell” blared from my car’s speakers.

And there was the USS New York City,
A submarine where I pressed the button
Discharging air torpedoes at
Phantom enemy shipping.

And I can’t forget circling on the only road in Nauru,
Where I noted the island’s center
Was the richest mine of bird guano in the world.
That was on my way to Tarawa, where my workspace
Was a sandy beach next to a rusting tank
Sunken in the ground for 50 years.

Once my workplace was another beach,
Drinking rum from a coconut on Peleliu
As the children paddled to collect presents
Dropped by Santa from an Air Force plane.

Another island workplace was Guam
Where a scared photographer declared
My driving was “Vehicular Bungee Jumping”
As we rumbled along mountain trails
Searching for the cave where a Japanese soldier hid for decades.
Guam, where my family survived an 8.1 magnitude earthquake
And I was absent for a week covering the damaged buildings and lives.

There was also that day in Northern Indiana
Where my workplace was a diner booth
Chatting about White Pride with a neo-Nazi skinhead,
Getting him to trust me so I could join his Aryan Christian Church
And take notes for a future front page expose.

In the same city my workplace was a walk
Around the county courthouse listening to a police spokesman
Tell me a woman recently murdered had collected evidence
That threatened the careers of his boss and the mayor.

Much earlier in my career
My workplace was a Virginia border town
Where I interviewed descendants
Of the Hatfields and McCoys,
Noting the West Virginia families
Lived in rundown trailers with
Huge satellite TV antennas in the yards

Today my workplace is my Indiana home
In an office crammed with books,
File cabinets, plastic boxes of old newsclips,
Piles of notebooks filled with scrawled poems,
And photos of the other days
When I trawled the world for news.

 

 

 

NEwsroom

Newsrooms, Petersburg (Va.)Progress-Index, 1978.

ON DEADLINE
By David Allen

The one thing I miss the most
about those busy newspaper days
is the energy rush responding
to calls on the police radio;
racing to beat the ambulances
and squad cars to the scene
of accidents and crimes.
Yeah, I was a disaster junky.
“Hey, Allen, we got two hours!”
an editor once shouted
as I left the noisy newsroom
to chase down a missing child report.
“You want a two or three hanky story?”
I yelled back, stuffing a notebook into
my back pocket as I scurried away.
I usually got to view the bodies
before the police tape went up
and interviewed families
before the news horde arrived.
My newsmates dubbed me “Dr. Death”
and my cubicle was roped off
by yellow police tape.
A sign above my desk read:
“Deadlines Amuse Me.”
The police radio always played
in the background – at work,
at play, and beside my bed at night.

Late in my career, in the Far East
as a Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes,
the police radio was replaced
by emergency broadcasts
warning of typhoons, tsunamis,
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

I never examined why I was drawn
to the darker side of life
until I retired and pondered
about the emptiness I felt
when sirens wailed in the distance
and I didn’t have to go.
I loved chasing the news
because that’s when I felt alive.
And I told the stories better
than anybody else.

The Reporter 1979 (2)

Cop reporter at the Petersburg (Va.) Progress Index 1978.

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WHERE ARE THE POEMS
By David Allen

Where are the poems?
I looked in all the familiar
places and failed to find
a line that I could use.
I wanted to ask my muse
for a shot of inspiration,
but she slept the sleep
of the jet lagged
and I feared waking her
would result in words too tart.
I looked in the bathroom
and behind the bar,
but found no Bukowski hidden there.
The fridge offered no Ferlinghetti.
So I went out back, but Jack
must’ve been somewhere on the road.
No words, no poems,
no Ginsberg in my ginseng tea.
No Billy Collins cropped
up in my coffee cup.
and Cummings apparently
must’ve come and went
before my feet hit the
bedroom floor.
An unpoetic day, I thought,
that’s what this is.
And so, I left for work
where the news is my muse.
the words always come easy there,
like the snippets I write when a trial drags
and I readily reach
into the recess of my
addled brain and find
the thoughts to kick start
the poetic engine of my being.

 

NOTE: This is one of the poems I read today at a small gathering in Alexandria, Ind., for National Poetry Month

Spring Haikus

Posted: April 22, 2017 in Poetry
Tags: , , , ,

flower oil

SPRING HAIKUS
By David Allen

Spring rain brings rebirth
Flowers, warmth and grassy lawns
My basement’s flooded

Wake up Smokey Bear
Exit your cave, spring is here
Fires must be doused

Warm weather’s returned
Let us walk by the river
“Take a hike!” he said

Time for spring cleaning
Purge clutter, tend the gardens
The hammock awaits

Spring break now begins
Southern beaches, sun and fun
Rising gas prices

Driving windows down
Feeling the warming spring air
Costs just an hour

D Allen - self

The Young Writer
By David Allen

He was always jotting something down
in an old school notebook,
sitting on the front stoop
of his family’s apartment
while his friends ran by him
to play a game of stickball
in the housing project’s parking lot.
When older, the other teens,
who bragged of their JD cards,
stole cars for joy rides,
while he buried himself
in books by Henry Miller, Dos Passos,
Frost, Whitman, Ginsberg and Poe.

There was always something different about him.
Oh, he wasn’t some antisocial angelic dweeb.
He played war with sticks and mud clods
on the hill behind the Rec Center.
And he also shoplifted his share of candy
and trolled the backstreets and alleys
for soda bottles to deposit at the local deli.

The oldest of seven kids,
he chose early to disconnect from the family,
spending hours away from home exploring
abandoned houses, factory ruins,
drainage tunnels, and rail yards
where he learned to hop freights
But, unlike his friends, he wrote
about those adventures,
scribbling in long-lost notebooks,
paeans to the open road,
hitch-hiking across borders;
new rock ballads for lost loves;
observations in a new teen beat.

Sometimes, while delivering the daily
newspaper, he imagined his life
was a televised serial on some
alien planet and he’d looked up
at the sky and give the viewers the finger.
He knew they’d cut that scene,
but it made him smile.
Kerouac would like that gesture.
he thought, so would Miller.
Years later, while skating through
high school, he joined the Naval Reserves
and took destroyer cruises
to the Caribbean – the Tropic of Cancer,
while classmates stayed at home
and sang Noels under Christmas trees
and celebrated the rising of Christ.

He found his future in the Navy
when, at 18, on his two-year active
duty tour, he wrote about his ship
for his hometown paper
and was paid $35 for a full
tabloid page and a pic.
He caught the News Jones
and later spent nearly four decades
living as an outsider and getting paid for it,
while he scrawled poems and stories
that he was sure would also
be read one day.

 
David Allen Swabbie

The sailor, 1966
 

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