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

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Is that a trail of blood leading down a hall in the haunted Royal Hotel ruins in Nakagusuku, Okinawa? Nah, it’s just a moldy old carpet. But spirits are said to still slink around the complex, which was left unfinished when workers mysteriously died during construction and the developer went insane.
DAVID ALLEN / S&S

Unfinished, abandoned buildings attest to island’s haunted nature

By DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES
Published: October 30, 2005

The island of Okinawa is one scary place.

Okinawa is haunted. All you have to do is drive around and see buildings left unfinished because some spirit has made its presence known, or a house abandoned because some ghost scared its occupants. There are so many such spooky sights on Okinawa that both Kadena Air Base’s 18th Services Squadron and Marine Corps Community Services have special Halloween tours that sell out weeks in advance.

Want a good fright on Halloween night? There’s plenty to choose from.

Kadena Air Base has two creepy haunts. There’s a small house, number 2283, behind the Kadena USO that is now used for storage because few people could stand to live there. It is said it was built over an ancient burial ground and the souls of those once buried there can never find rest.

The house is smaller than the others in the area because one room was so cold that no one could sleep there and it was torn down. And, to add to the horror, an officer beat his wife to death inside the house sometime in the early 1970s.

Or was it a teenage girl stabbed to death by her stepfather? No one is sure anymore, and the tour guides like to tell both stories — and the one about the Samurai warrior who rides his steed through the living room.

One of the best guides to Okinawa’s haunted sites is “The Ghosts of Okinawa,” a book by Jayne A. Hitchcock, who lived on Okinawa from 1992 to 1995. It’s a Halloween bestseller at base bookstores.

Hitchcock was so taken with the stories of the spooky Kadena house that she held a séance there on Oct. 31, 1994. She claims she saw the ghosts of two children who talked about being afraid of a man on a horse.

The other chief haunted site on the air base is the golf course, where legend has it that 17 high school girls pressed into the service of the Japanese Imperial Army committed suicide when the Americans landed on nearby beaches on April 1, 1945. Some people have reported hearing wailing coming from the area late at night.

And don’t count the Marine bases out. Hitchcock’s book mentions her own personal spook, a sailor in a peacoat she called Mike who lounged around her Camp Foster home, playfully pitching pennies and guitar picks at unsuspecting guests and her husband. She never did find out why he was there.

Then there’s the samurai warrior who is said to trudge uphill toward Futenma Housing on Camp Foster from Stillwell Drive. He looks mean, but seemingly never pays attention to the cars that pass by.

Perhaps the best-known Okinawa haunt, though, is the skeletal remains of the Royal Hotel on the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle, near Camp Foster.

The story says a Naha businessman convinced villagers that he could attract tourists to the castle ruins by building a zoo next door. Admission fees were to go toward restoration of the 13th-century castle. Then came the 1975 Okinawa Memorial Exposition, and the greedy promoter expanded the plans to include a luxury hotel on the hillside.

Villagers warned him that the grounds were sacred, but he ignored them. Soon, the project, designed as an elaborate resort village with a casino and water park, began to take shape. The man poured millions of dollars into the project, but work was hampered when monks at the nearby Buddhist temple told him he was building too close to a cave inhabited by restless spirits.

Some of his workmen left when they heard the warnings, others abandoned the site only after several workmen died in mysterious construction accidents.

Setsuko Inafuku, a tour guide from Kadena Air Base, notes that the businessman went bankrupt, fell ill and later went insane. The haunting at the hotel was so severe that one of the monks decided to live for a while in one of the hotel’s unfinished rooms and built a small altar to appease the spirits.

Some people say the businessman went insane long before construction halted. The hotel is a maze of stairs that go nowhere and dead-end, graffiti-filled corridors leading to rooms where old mattresses, moldy tatami mats and broken pieces of furniture lie scattered about.

Today the site is a popular spot for teens playing “dare me” games on moonless nights and urban warriors stalking each other with pellet guns.

Small shrines set up to appease the spirits can be found throughout Okinawa. For example, near Kadena Air Base, there is an altar built alongside the Okinawa Expressway where it goes through a hill in the Chibana district of Okinawa City. When the national government designed the toll road that stretches from Naha to Nago, no one paid much attention to the “fairy” tales told about the hill, which had been used since ancient days as a place of prayer.

However, after several construction workers died after dynamiting a pass through the hill, the shrine was set up. According to a local historian, the accidents stopped soon thereafter.

There are many tales of ghosts hailing cabs to take them on their ghostly journeys. Shoji Endo, a former professor of Japanese literature at Okinawa International University, collected thousands of such tales before he retired recently.

One of his favorite stories was the tale of a woman holding a small baby who hailed a rickshaw one night in 1931 in Naha, the prefecture’s capital. The rickshaw man took her across the city. He dropped her off at a new home and waited patiently while she went inside, promising to return with his fee. After a few minutes he knocked on the door of the home and a man answered.

When the rickshaw driver explained what had happened, the man sighed deeply and handed him his fare, explaining that the woman and baby were his wife and son, who had died some years before. Every now and then, he said, they caught a rickshaw from their old home to the man’s new abode.

Harvests

Posted: October 19, 2018 in Poetry
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HARVESTS
By David Allen

I’ve seen many harvests.
During my teen years, I harvested
baskets of Little Neck clams;
wading in harbor waters at low tide
on Long Island’s North Shore,
collecting treats to be steamed
at beach barbecues.

I stumbled across potato fields
as a child, collecting spuds days before
the migrant farmers were transported
to harvest the Long Island fields,
years before the farms gave way
to shopping malls and subdivisions.

Later, there were Virginia Autumns
breathing in the strong smells of tobacco
curing in barns, hung on beams and exposed
to smoke from hardwood fires.

In the Far East, I saw rice
reaped in rice paddies by
foot-powered threshing machines,
as I drove back mountain roads
to my day job harvesting news.

passing-farm-implements

These days I witness Hoosier harvests of corn,
dodging huge reaping machines
that menace my car as I drive
down narrow country roads.

It’s also where I reaped a bountiful
crop of love when I married
a Hoosier farm girl who taught me
how to spot soybean fields,
deem when corn is ripe to pick,
and that John Deere’s are the only real
Tractors for true Hoosiers.

She also helped me raise
a wondrous crop of kids.

But me, I’m not a farmer.
I’m just a poet who plants
words on pages to feed
a poem-hungry world.

Be sure to buy my books “The Story So Far” and “(more)” both available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/David-Allen/e/B00DT6TM7Y?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060