Posts Tagged ‘Navy’

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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Carnathy 1


Walked the narrow streets
of Colon last night,
boldy wearing the blue SP armband,
nightstick twirling, my 5-foot 2-inch skinny ass
flanked by two of the biggest Marines
I had ever seen.
Feeling cocky in the Caribbean,
a world away from the fray in Vietnam.
‘Round about midnight,
prodding the drunks back to the ship,
we spied a young Marine sitting in the doorway
of a century-old storefront, sobbing .

“God, God! Where are you?” he cried.
“God, God, where are you?”
Over and over he slurred the words
between garbled bits of barely audible sighs.

One of the Marine SPs, recognizing his friend,
bent over him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Carnathy, what’s wrong, man?”
Carnathy had blood on his blouse and a cut
on his distorted, drunken face.
“He’s dead!” Carnathy wailed.
“My buddy – they killed him!”
“Who, man?” the Marine asked.
“He had no name and
he looked just like me.
He’s dead!”

Carnathy convulsed into
a stream of nonstop sobs,
then screamed,
“I told him God was dead
and he believed me!”

The Marine SPs helped him to his feet.
Carnathy slumped in their arms,
repeating his wail,
“I told him God was dead
and he believed me!”
They walked him back toward the ship,
strong arms tenderly lifting,
gently helping him along.

“Carnathy sometimes gets like this,”
his friend told me as I tagged behind.
“He used to be religious
until he got freaked out and lost God
in a bunker during a mortar attack.”

As the ship grew in sight,
Carnathy straightened,
yelled and jerked away,
stumbling, running for the darkness.
We chased him, found him huddled,
hiding in a clump of bushes.
He came up swinging,
but his drunken assault
was no match for
sober wits and nightsticks.

His friends dragged him back to the ship.
“Take me, take me to my death!”
Carnathy cried.
“Go ahead, you bastards, God is dead!
God sucks! I want to die!”

The next day, Carnathy was flown to
a hospital and a discharge in San Juan.
I was on the ships’ fantail,
gossiping over morning coffee,
when I learned that just before
we found him Carnathy
had been in a fight with
a lifer he had tried to convince of
God’s absence from the world.
The lifer called him a weak crybaby
and a disgrace to the Corps.

Just another day
protecting the Caribbean
from communism.

By David Allen
20 October 1967

NOTE: Here’s a Memorial Day poem from the archives.


Posted: April 10, 2014 in Poetry, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Sailorz 001


This will be strange.
Forty-six years after
Giving my last salute
On the quarterdeck,
I am embarking
On a road cruise
Back to the scene
Of many crimes –
A reunion with shipmates
Far removed from the
Liberty calls of our youth.

What should I pack?
And what should
I leave behind?

Old pictures, for sure;
Salty sailors on the fantail
Sipping coffee,
Sharing the scuttlebutt;
Rum and coke sodden smiles
Grouped around a bottle-laden
Table at the Lucky Seven,
The warm tropical air
Of Old San Juan
Still soothes my soul.

And look, here’s a picture
Of me astride a pony
In a Panama City park,
Taken the same day
During a train ride back
To the ship when one of
Our drunken crew
Showed us how the whore
At some mildewed club
Showed us how to
Smoke a cigarette with her ass
And we pushed him
Into the next car, filled
With officers and
Panamanian locals.

I might also take
The two pieces of my uniform
That survived the years.
The stained white short-sleeved blouse
(we didn’t call the shirts)
I wore on liberty –
A good two sizes too small
For me now –
And the shiny silver ship’s
Belt buckle I still
Wear with my jeans.

But what should I share
About the after-life?

Would they be offended
By my anti-war work?
The 36-year adventure
As a journalist, the last
Nineteen covering
The misdeeds of American
Servicemen on the islands
Of Guam and Okinawa?

I’m not sure.

And maybe I should
Omit the stories of the Glebe,
Communal days in Northern Virginia,
LSD parties in the pasture,
Scaring the cattle and
Daffodil, my goat.
I am sure tales of the broken
Marriage and custody wars,
The frustrated years
Raising preschool kids
On my own, and the joyous
Later times spoiling
Their children, would ring
Familiar bells.

But I wonder what they’d think
Of open mic poetry nights
In the Gate Two Street bars
Outside the sprawling air base
On Okinawa?
(I did write poems back
In the sailing days,
But shared them
With a select few.)

I don’t know,
It’s hard to say how
This reunion will play out.
Will it reunite, rekindle
Old friendships?
Or underline why we
All went our separate,
Different ways,
Once I left the Grey Lady,
Striding down the gangplank,
Seabag over my shoulder,
Smiling as the quarterdeck bell
Rang and the Officer of the Deck
Proclaimed, “David Allen,

By David Allen
February 2014

NOTE: This is a poem I wrote when Last Stanza leader Jenny Anderson Kalahar said we should get ready to resume our biweekly poetry meetings and suggested we write a poem about reunions — since Last Stanza has been on a one-year hiatus, primarily due to my confrontation with cancer. We haven’t set meeting dates yet, but here’s my poem.