Posts Tagged ‘David Allen’

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.

 

666521645Chuck and me in the crowd

Ring? Ring?

Posted: July 24, 2018 in Poetry
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Ring? Ring?
By David Allen

I don’t know why they keep calling me
I never buy anything by phone
But several times a day
Bored, poorly paid salesmen call
Offering to sell me something
They swear I need
Only, I don’t.

Blocking their numbers don’t work
They have a system of not just randomly calling people
But also of hiding the numbers they are calling from
Someone must know I never buy anything
They must keep records
I don’t understand why they call.

But I don’t angrily hang up
Or yell, or curse them to hell
The poor guys (or gals) at the other end
Are just doing their job
It’s not personal.

So, I answer the call from U.S. Pharmacy
“You’re selling pharmaceuticals to improve
My love life?” I say. “Sorry, I can assure you
There’s no problem down there
Believe me. Love? I’m always up for it”

Another caller says he’s from a Medicare
Approved provider of back braces
No thanks!” I exclaim. “I’d love to talk,
But I need to get ready for my marathon”
A Wall Street bank phone-banker asks
How much equity I have in my home.

He can arrange an assessment.
“Great, but can you come in a few weeks?
I have some guys in the basement now
Getting rid of mold and a termite control guy
Is scheduled for next week,” I say
“Maybe he could come after they
Reinforce my home’s foundation?”
Sometimes it’s not until I mention the police raid
On the crack house across the street that
They end their call.

I don’t know why they keep calling
I never buy anything
Or… maybe they have another purpose
Maybe they’re lonely and need a break from
The clicks and curses that fill their bored days
Maybe my name’s on a list that says
“For a laugh call …”

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FOR YOU SCAREDYCATS
By David Allen

It’s Friday the 13th
So what?
“What, me worry?”
Has been my life’s theme
Ever since my Aunt Jessie
Gave me an issue of Mad Magazine
Back when I was still in grade school.
So, superstitious? Me?
Bah! In the “Step on a Crack” game
I stepped on every one
And my mother was backache free
Into her 70s.

(Now , it’s true she had a pain in the neck –
Me! Ever since I learned to walk.
And many others have dubbed me
That in the long decades since.)

So, superstitious?
Give me a ladder to walk under
And a black cat’s path to cross.
Why, I’d volunteer to be third
On a match if I smoked.
Phooey on all you superstitious fools!
If I lived in an apartment tower
I’d pick the 13th floor.
Hell, the house I live in now
Is the last on the left on a dead end street,
Where the sidewalk ends,
With dark, thick woods out back.
The perfect place for a horror story.

 

 

NEwsroom

Petersburg, Va. Progress-Index newsroom 1978
 

NOW IT’S PERSONAL
By David Allen

Okay, now it’s personal.
Five journalists were shot dead
Today in a Maryland newsroom
By a maniac upset about a years-old story
That named him a harasser, a serial nut job.
He shot his way through a glass door
And unloaded his shotgun
At people dodging for cover.

Years ago, that could have been me.
For almost four decades I covered the news,
I was threatened many times
By people upset by the truths
My stories uncovered.
Once, I received a note,
Cut-out letters pasted on
An ink-stained piece of paper.
My name was at the top
Of a list of editors and the city mayor,
Declaring, “Death to you.
Death to your families.”
I laughed and photocopied
The note before calling the police.
I reveled at being named first.

I’m not sure I’d laugh today
Violence in this country is rampant
Madmen act out their threats with guns.
I cry for those killed today
And seethe with anger.

But then I remember
Advice I once saw written
On a Japanese tee shirt:
“Don’t let the teardrops
Rust your shining heart.”

I’ll try
But it’s getting damn hard.

*NOTE: The threat I received was at the Fort Wayne, IN, News-Sentinel, but I don’t have a photo of that newsroom.

 

 

Slow Motion Wait

Posted: June 28, 2018 in Poetry
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Slow Motion Wait
By David Allen

The TV in the auto dealership waiting room
Is playing Days of Our Lives.
“Like sand in an hourglass
So are the days of our lives.”
(cue the theme song)

That’s my life today
Nothing to do but wait
While my car gets its 80,000-mile check
Because there’s no one available
To take me to lunch.

Slowly, the grains of sand fall
Maybe a dozen a second
As I ache for a remote control
So I can change the channel
To turn off the damn drama.
But two old ladies in chairs
Across the room are paying
Rapt attention to the soap.

It’s killing me.

I’m in no mood for crosswords.
I mean puzzles,
There’s plenty of obscenities
Lodged in my mind about
The wait
My aching bones
Our crazed POTUS

But I remain silent
Waiting.

I am already preparing
For the time after the oil change,
Tire rotation, and other routine checks,
When the car service guy
Will come in and pleasantly say
“Hi, Mr. Allen. Well we’re done
And your car’s ready. And did you know…
Blah, blah, blah needs to be fixed?
Do you want to set a date?”

I know it will cost me more
Than I can afford.
And I’ll nod and thank him and
Politely say, I’ll think about it
“What will today’s bill be?”

We have the same conversation
Every time I come here.
I’d go elsewhere,
But it’s cheap here.
I am a VIP.

Just as I start to erase those thoughts,
I hear someone say “Sometimes,
I wish I were someplace else.”
“Me, too, pal,” I mutter, realizing
It’s the man hunk on the screen.
His woman says something I don’t quite get.
I wish I had been paying more attention to the show.

“Sometimes, I wish I were someone else,”
The tube guy whispers.
“Well, yeah,” I start, but am interrupted
By a voice behind me.

“Mr. Allen, your car’s ready.
Now the brakes are squeaky … “

Angry

Posted: June 22, 2018 in Poetry
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ANGRY
By David Allen

I’m white
And I’m not proud.
I’m an American
And I’m embarrassed.

This country’s tilted
Far to the Right
And I’m rolling off
Into the abyss
Of what Trump
Has wrought.
I don’t feel safe
I’m worried blue.

The Trumpists blare
And I feel scared.
But not as much
As a Guatemalan Mom
Whose arms are empty
Her children gone
And placed in cages
In internment towns.

It’s a replay
Of the ugly days
When we chose
To lock up folks
With yellow skin.
Now the skin’s brown,
But it’s still a sin
We commit today
Against the folks
Who chose to run away
From terror at home.

June Thoughts

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Poetry
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JUNE THOUGHTS
By David Allen

June is the month
That comes between
The holiday for heroes
Who died protecting
The freedoms guaranteed
By the second holiday.
 
The deadly shots of the first
Turn into fireworks for the second.

Decades ago, I first wondered ,
While listening to Marines
Jaw drunkenly  in a San Juan bar
About the horrors of Vietnam,
Whether our brave military dead
Might be rolling in their graves.

Did they feel forgotten and betrayed
By the politicians who sent them to die
In a nightmare conflict that had nothing
To do with protecting their freedoms at home?

I was just a lucky sailor sent to do my two years
Of active duty on a rusting Landing Ship
That took war-hardened Marines on
Pleasure cruises, supposedly protecting
The Caribbean against Communism.

Mostly, we just drank and whored
And forgot about the still-raging blood fest
That would darken the souls of some veteran’s
Years after their uniforms were packed away.

This June I continue to scratch my head
Wondering what the dead from recent war-torn fronts
May feel about dying for oil, religion, despots and
The oligarchs that control the shifting sands
Of history from behind the screens.

 

 

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SCATTERED
By David Allen

While driving down Anderson’s miles
Of struggling stores and an empty mall,
I realized the name of the four-lane road
Was appropriately named Scatterfield.
The strip malls are pocked with “closing” signs
And bright lights shining on empty shelves.
Even the pawn shop has given up any hope
Of making money from jobless clerks
Hocking their futures for a few bucks
To buy a gallon of milk at the Dollar Store.
Success seems scattered on Scatterfield.
A flea market dominates a once thriving strip.
Nearby, cheap, damaged bulk items are stocked
In a former brand name big box store.

The drivers negotiating the pot-holed boulevard
Scatter down Scatterfield, many on their way
To drug stores, cut-rate medical mills,
“No Credit Needed” used car lots,
And the always crowded Goodwill.

I drive on, shake my head and wonder
Why our country’s economic boom
Has bypassed this Middle American mess
Until I realize I missed my turn a mile back.
I’m scatterbrained on Scatterfield.

 

The Boot

Posted: May 28, 2018 in Poetry
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boot

THE BOOT
By David Allen

The worn combat boot
Stands alone in the sand
Weather-baked faded leather,
Toe scraped and colorless,
It’s mate nowhere to be seen.
Laced halfway, the loose strands
Fall to the ground, run under the heel
And then trail off in the white sand.
The sweltering sun creates a lonesome shadow.

Is this some landing beach
From a decades-old Pacific war?
Or a desert scene from a more recent conflict?
The boot is not saying
It just stands at attention
Proud, perhaps, that it hasn’t fallen.
It keeps watch over something.

I stare and wonder where the wearer went
Was he a survivor, blown out of his boot
By a mine — now footless but free?
Or was the boot planted here
To honor a fallen friend?
The boot is still not talking
It just stands there, silent,
Leaving it’s meaning
To whoever meanders by.

Emojis

Posted: May 14, 2018 in Poetry
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EMOJIS
By David Allen

There they are again —
Thumbs Up, Smiley, Wow, and Anger,
All waiting for me to choose one
As a picture comment of my feelings
About a Facebook post.
But what do they really mean?
Is  Smiley laughing at the humor posted,
Or at the user who dumbly shared it?
And is Wow amazed at the post’s incredible insight,
Or that someone would fall for such nonsense?
And Anger? Who is it directed at?
Is it the hilarious post about dimwitted Trump,
Or the poster for publishing such treasonous stuff?
Take your pick.

Emojis, like the words they seek to replace,
Mean what you read into them.
It’s another gift from the Japanese
Who confound us with “Japlish,”
The English they use on tee shirts, signs
And notebook covers, that confound
Us with their unintentional Zen.
They were born in Japan,
The word means “picture character.”
Years before Zuckerberg possessed our souls.

In the late 1990s, Tokyo Thumbalinas
Ruled the net, speedily posting messages
On cell phones, choosing an emoji
To quickly share their feelings.

At first, just a dozen or so yellow-faced emojis were created
Now there are thousands used internationally.