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 heard 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.


Freight Yard 1

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.


Shooting an air torpedo aboard the USS New York City

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.





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

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.


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

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

Like this? Then buy my books! “The Story So Far” and “(more)” are available on Amazon and by messaging me at david@davidallen.nu.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

David Allen writes


Decades ago
We gathered
And compared
Our favorite drugs,
Which pill sent us soaring,
(“One pill makes you larger,”
The Airplane sang),
And which pill made us retarded?
(“And one pill makes you small?”)
Which pills were discarded
Because they didn’t
Do anything at all?
Flash forward to now
Where we find the balding heads
Sitting on Jim’s back porch,
Listening to him play
Old standards on his squeeze box
While we compare the new pills
That thin our blood
And reduce our cholesterol
And keep our hearts –
And our lives –
On a regular beat.


Thanks to Poet/Editor Wayne Russell, I have three poems published in Degenerate Literature



Fleabag Motel

Bukowski would have loved this place
a real fleabag motel
no fridge
no ice,
some cigarette-burned
ancient RCA TV
bolted to a low bureau,
strips of pressed wood
peeled off,
sits next to a Gideon Bible;
lamps tilt at weird angles,
chairs of ripped fake leather,
in worse shape than Salvation
Army retreads;
grey-white walls marred
with black boot heel marks
near the door;
dirty handprints
smudge the wall near the bed;
a bullet hole marks the wall
just above the TV;
the plastic covers of the electrical sockets
are cracked, split;
brown water stains the gray ceiling tiles.
yeah, this is a Buk place,
a real roach motel.
a six pack, maybe something harder,
would make it habitable.
out back, on the other side of the parking lot,
the steady clickityclack and haunting whistle
of a freight train as it passes a crossing
makes this dump almost romantic.
well, at least the sheets are clean.
and anyway,
all I need is a place to sleep
and shower
and shit.
it’s perfect
for all that.


 10:40 p.m.
Just getting settled
For bed.
Phone rings
“Hello, I need you to come
To the front desk.”
Indian accent,
“You need to fill out
Some papers.”
“For the police.”
“You need to come here,
Something about your neighbor in 234.”
“I don’t know, you need to come down here
Right away.”
All right.

I hang up,
Put my shirt on,
Grab my wallet and keys –
Maybe that’s a bad move.
Some mugger might be waiting
Just outside the door.
But I might need an ID.
I take out my money, credit cards,
Slip them under the mattress.
(Strange, I’d never think of doing that at home
But in this rundown Indiana fleabag motel with
Bullet holes and bootheels marking the walls,
I worry.)

Maybe the call was a hoax.
A ploy to get me to open the door.
Wait, what if it’s really the cops
And they need my contacts in this burg?
Maybe I should take my address book.
Nah, if they need them I’ll just go back to the room.

I open my door,
Step out,
No one around except
The trash-fed stray
Cat that hangs around the stairs.
She meows loudly,
Scurries away.
I descend the cracked concrete stairs,
Glance at my rented car.
No stranger there;
Bright lights allow
No shadowed lairs.
I round the corner
To the front office
Door’s locked.
I spot a woman inside
Waving me to a security window
Like a self-serve gas station at night.
I rap on the window
And a Paki-Indian-Bangledeshi
Man walks up.
“Can I help you?”
Yeah, what do you want?
“What do YOU want?”
I dunno, someone called me
Told me to come down here
And fill out some papers.
“Sorry, no one called.”
Someone did.
“Not from here, my friend.”
But someone said there was a complaint
From room 234.
“I am sorry, my friend, but no one called.”
No call?
“Someone did the
Same thing yesterday.

I go back to the
$25 a night room
With mold in the shower
And crusting the
Air conditioner.
I am convinced the mugger
Had positioned himself
To strike when I return.
But I am greeted only
By stray cat
In the open garbage bin
Maybe he’s already in my room
Maybe he slipped in there
While I was gone and
He’s cleaned me out.
I walk around the corner
To the strairway,
Stare at the door to 234 —
No sign of life
I open my door,
No one here,
Nothing missing,
Just one big
Fucking pain in
The ass practical joke.

I’ve been robbed of nothing
Except my sleep.

Abandon All Hope
“Hope springs eternal,” now there’s a lie
I’ve seen the infernal work of the pedophile
sadist, the lifeless little girl carefully posed
naked in a rain-swollen ditch,
legs spread, teeth marks on thighs,
satanic signs carved into prepubescent breasts.
I wrote the news stories
that ruined your meals.
They should post large notices
at the entrances of all maternity wards
and the foot of every birthing bed.
“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”
This world you inherit is the most horrible,
most horrific of all of Dante’s rings of hell.

BIO: David Allen is a retired journalist, freelance writer, and poet living in Central Indiana. He is the poetry editor of Indiana Voice Journal and vice president of the Poetry Society of Indiana.  He has been published in many literary journals and has two books of poetry, “The Story So Far,” and “(more)” available at Amazon.

Occult Hand 001

By David Allen

I admit it
I confess
I joined a cult
Who would’ve guessed
That I’d fall in
With an obscure band
But it’s true that
I’m an Occult Hand.

I was baptized five times
When just a tyke
As my Mom searched
For a church she liked
But what I found
Was no Christian cult
I found my niche
When, I became an adult

I turned to the Dark Side
The Fourth Estate
Covering the news
In several states
I wrote about crime
And I covered the courts
And for a short time
I even wrote about sports

But the best gig of all
Was when I moved to Japan
And Stars and Stripes gave
Me a bureau to command
It was when Okinawa
Went through a serious drought
A strange story surfaced
And I found out about

A ritual on a tiny isle
Where the villagers danced
With a priestesses
Who sang a chant
And soon weeks of rain
Fell on a single day

“It was if an occult hand
Swept clouds Okinawa’s way.”

An editor in Tokyo laughed
And let the lede stand
That’s how I became a member
Of the Occult Hand
It’s a secret order that never meets
Lacks a leader and has but one rite
“It’s as of an occult hand had…”
The reporter must write

Publication of the phrase
Gives the writer full rights
To boast he’s a member
On post-deadline nights
Bragging to his bar mates
Toasting to the cult
Regaling them with stories
With each Guinness gulp