Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

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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Dead Fish

LEAH’S FISH
By David Allen

While feeding the ducks by the shore
8-year-old Leah saw something
lying in the shallow water
a fish had come too close
and was stranded on some rocks.
It lay on its side, fin flapping,
tail splashing,
trying to set itself aright.
“Oh, poor fishy,” Leah yelled,
running to the water’s edge.
“Pop Pop!
I was too far away to see it struggle.
“Is it dead?” I asked.
“No, it’s moving,” Leah said.
She picked up a small stick and poked it.
The fish shivered and shook
flipping in the shallow water.
Leah poked again.
“How can I help it?”
“Get a bigger stick!”
Leah found a longer limb,
picked it up and ran to the fish.
“Here you go!”
She dug at the rocks under the fish
and yanked up sharply.
The fish flopped a foot into the water,
but it was still stuck.
Leah flipped the fish three more times
and the fish was finally freed.
She wiggled her tail in thanks and swam away.
Leah beamed. “I saved an animal!”
“I never did that before!”
“It’s just your first time,” Pop Pop smiled.

The Girl at the Door

Posted: March 23, 2019 in Poetry
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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.

Daffodil

Posted: February 8, 2019 in Poetry
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Daffodils

DAFFODIL
By David Allen

As a flower
I’m a daffodil
(And not just because
I am a bit daffy.)
I am the Lent Lily,
the cheerful jonquil,
sign of Winter’s end,
a sunny yellow symbol
of hope that chases away
the cancer of the cold,
grey season.
My nodding head
creating,
inspiring,
never giving up
on my dreams.

 

english poem recitation 17

Delhi Public School English Poetry Competition

DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE POETS
By David Allen

Poets aren’t easy to love ‘cause they’re out of control
spending time rhyming, free versing and cursing  
when the lines that they write refuse to take hold.
They wear faded black sweaters and tattered torn blue jeans
and frequent the town’s cheap bar scene
and their ink-stained pages never quite translate
to what it was they had set out to mean.

Mamas  don’t let your babies grow up to be poets
someone who’ll wield a wild pen
scrawling about the starts and ends
and all of life’s in-betweens.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be poets
someone whose pockets have nothing but lint
whose loves are counted as who came and went
who relish dethroning all your kings and queens.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be poets
they’ll tell all the stories you’d rather keep buried
about phone calls at midnight, the way you got married
and the beauty marks hidden from public display.

Poets are zany odd outcasts who shun the “in” crowd
they frequent back alley bars and cheap coffee dives,
imbibing and reading their poems out loud.
They carry torn notebooks they fill on lonely cold nights,
pen scrawls and typed walls of stanzas they pray
will gel and some day find meaning that’s right.

 

NOTE: I wrote this for a lovely poet couple expecting their first baby. It’s based on the country tune “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.”

our-ordinate-love

PEARLS
By David Allen

Thirty years together
You’re my pearl
Three decades
Enduring
Lasting under pressure
We’ve seen our share
And, like a pearl,
We’ve lasted.

It’s been a whirl
Of a ride, my Pearl.
Major moves spanning a sea
Typhoons and earthquakes
(and a silly tsunami).
Nearly two decades of tropical sand
Until medical challenges sent us again
To Midwest winters
Warmed by new friends
And grandkids .

We are soulmates
Comforting each other
With a smile
A touch, a kiss,
And, like pearls,
We’re solid, strong,
Luminescent,
Lasting, looking forward
From these decades
To the next.

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XMAS APOCALYPSE 2
From the movie “I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday”

CHRISTMAS APOCALYPSE
By David Allen

‘Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
the Smiths were so hungry
they could eat a mouse.
They had sneered at predictions
the world’s end would come
and now that it had they
wish they had made some

Preparations for no power
for no water, food, heat
or armed themselves against looters
who now ruled the streets.
They huddled in their basement
knowing Santa lost his way
and sanity expired
that Apocalyptic day.

The day the Mayans predicted
and Nostradamus confirmed;
the day the meteors came
and civilization was burned.
The day the sun sent a pulse
that killed manmade machines;
when Yosemite blew
and the heavens screamed.

The day all the fish boiled
in magma hot seas
and a plague swept the globe
with some unknown disease.
The day those in churches waited
for the coming of Christ,
who never did make it
although they prayed twice.

The day governments fell
and death tolls rose higher;
the day anarchy reigned;
of uncontrollable fires.
The Smith’s shivered in fear
as Christmas Day came
wondering why this had happened
and who was to blame.

Unable to Help

Posted: November 30, 2018 in Poetry
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UNABLE TO HELP
By David Allen

She stood alone on a deserted beach
shoulders slumped, looking out over the still sea.
Nothing moved and the blazing summer sun
beat down on her unprotected brow.
She was searching for something, someone.
I wanted to run to her, tell her the weary waves
would not always be empty, surely her lover,
son, or savior, would return some day.
But I could not.
Instead, I moved my gaze
from the decades-old painting
in a weathered frame
and returned my attention
to the TV show as the commercial
that distracted me ended.

Woodstock

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Poetry
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Whetting my whistle before the music

WOODSTOCK
By David Allen

Hard to believe it’s been almost 50 years since
the high-water mark of the Peace and Love movement —
the Woodstock Music and Art Festival.
I was 21, a year out of the Navy and rock radio stations
were hyping a three-day concert in upstate New York
I thought it’d be a fun camp-out,
something like a Central Park Love In.

I was wrong. It was the most bizarre weekend of my life.

We drove to the event in my friend Jim’s beat-up
old white-and-black Blatz beer van
which he sneaked onto the festival grounds.
With us were my younger siblings,
Kathy, 19, who called herself “Sunshine” back then
and Chuck, 17, known back on Long Island as
“Little Brother Charlton,” lead singer a garage band
called the Psychedelic Freight Train.
Jim and I camped out in the beer truck,
we didn’t see them again until Monday

My memories of the weekend are a haze
of music mixed with adventuring
to the far corners of Max Yasgur’s farm,
listening to tunes at the Hog Farm’s free stage,
skinny-dipping in the lake, hearing the freaked-out rants
of the brown-acid victims, tripping over the bodies of lovers
in mud-caked sleeping bags, wandering down a woodsy path
lined with makeshift booths where hippie trinkets and drugs were sold,
and piling into a semitrailer to get out of the rain.

That’s where my almost brush with fame comes in.
A dozen or so folks had made it to the trailer before us
and before too long the bottles of wine were being passed around.
As Joni Mitchell later sang, we were stardust, we were golden.
At some point, Jim started beating on an empty wine bottle with a stick
and some others joined in and broke into the now famous “Rain Chant.”

We had a sound crew in the trailer with us
and they caught our chant on tape.
It was used as the soundtrack for the scene of mud-caked people
under a cloudy sky sliding through the muck.
in the documentary film of the event.
The chant was simple: “Whoa-o, whoa, whoa, whoa,
peace, peace, peace, peace.”
My kazoo picks up on the chant —
one long buzz followed by four short buzzes.
Toward the end, the kazoo is clearer and louder
and leads straight into the intro to Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice.”

It’s a great segue, I salute the guy who mixed it.
But I never saw a nickel for helping Santana out.
On each anniversary of Woodstock, I play the album
and watch the movie and damn the fates.
I could’ve been a rock star. I could be traveling
with some of my favorite acts from that weekend,
maybe opening for The Who or Arlo Guthrie.
Instead, I’m a retired reporter, an unknown poet.

But what really makes me want to scratch my head bald
is that my sister, now a born-again evangelical, is in the movie.
During one of the film’s rain sequences, the screen splits.
one half shows the stage crew scampering to protect equipment
the other half shows the soaking-wet crowd
hunkering down to keep dry.
All except for one dancing blonde flower child,
her arms raised, welcoming the cooling shower.
That’s my sister. That scene riled me for years
Her picture became an icon for the event,
my kazoo virtuoso went unaccredited.
Bah!

But, maybe it will turn out okay as the 50th-anniversary approaches.
A documentary filmmaker read a news story I wrote
about my plight and wants to put me in his movie.
Hey, maybe I’ll get to play my kazoo again.

Note: Originally published in Stars and Stripes for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

666521645Chuck and me in the crowd