Posts Tagged ‘Okinawa’

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WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION IN OCTOBER
or
SOMEONE PAINTED THE PIG’S BALLS BLUE

Prelude:

The paycheck stub
says use or lose
so, I choose
vacation —
V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N
This is how it went.

Day One:

I read poems
and the earth moves.
Miles below us
the earth rocks —
no connection.
“The crowd was
pretty silent,” I say,
returning to my seat.
“We were all wondering
whether to run,” Ruth Ellen answers.
Again, no connection.

Day Two:

Sunday
rain followed by rain
with a little more rain,
a drowsy, kind of
sleep in day to make
the transition to vacation.
Pizza Man,
up to his ankles in water,
braving the flood,
delivering the meatrageous.
Diets be damned,
we’re on vacation!

Day Three:

Rain at dawn;
what a surprise!
It rains cats and dogs,
fish and frogs;
it pours in buckets,
falls straight in sheets,
it rains blankets —
hell, it rains the whole damn mattress.
We shop for last
minute things and buy
what impulse brings.

Day Four:

Off for the fair shores of Okuma,
North island mountains,
sandy seashore. We’re off
to bathe ourselves in sunshine.
But first, we must survive the rain.
It rains so hard
we can’t tell sea from sky
and the road is a river
of water looking
for an open drain.
Kadena Circle is a fog of spray
cars fishtail, wipers
futilely beat at the rain
slapping time to
a Buffett refrain.
At the Kina slaughterhouse
and restaurant someone
painted the pig’s balls blue.
An omen, ‘cause just outside
of Nago the blue sky
breaks through.
Mountains steamy,
wisps of clouds play
in and out the window
through the folds.
Salvador Dali slopes,
cement slabs slide
down the mountainside —
no falling rocks here.

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The road narrows,
double lanes hug the coast.
Shioya Bridge, it pleases me
to drive through your bright red arches
before your featureless brother
takes your place.

And then — Okuma!
“No bottled beverages
allowed in this facility.”
Quick, hide
the long-necked Becks.

Ruth Ellen, trusted
navigator, willing scribe,
says the poem’s taking
epic proportions:

By the shores of great Okuma
I bit deep into my burger,
burger smothered rich with mushrooms
covered with a coat of cheese.
I bit deep into my burger
and let out a moan of pleasure,
startling my lunch companion
who said, “Well, I see you’re pleased.
You never moan so loud when we’re together
doing the dance of mare and stallion;
(Oh, the pickle and the onion)
No, you never moan so loud
on the nights we roll in bed.”
I could only nod my head,
for I was no Indian brave,
and it was the Cheeseburger in Paradise
that I had craved
since before the trip began.

Day Five:

Inaccuweather calls for
scattered showers
interrupted by torrents.
During a sun break, we
try snorkeling, but
Mother Ocean’s strong current
threatens to carry us away.
“Not yet, not today!”
we shout, as we leave Robinson Crusoe
footprints in the sand.
“There’s adventure ahead.
We’re on vacation, dammit!”

The way to beat the clouds
is to drive into them.
Cross Highway 58,
past the turnoff to Higa Falls,
and up, up, up
the snaking mountain road
that twists and turns
like a woman’s body,
caressing the curves,
finessing them with convex
mirrors, we drive through
the clouds forming
in the valleys below.

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Mile, after mile
and not another soul.
At spots the jungle threatens
to reclaim the road,
eliminate all trace of the
concrete ribbon rising
up, up, up
and around and down
and up again.
A little traveled trail,
a patchy asphalt one-lane
almost-path branches
off, beckons.
Dare we take it?
Dare we not?

Our Honda Shuttle
was not made for such
adventure, but handles
well the trail, so unused
that at parts vast spider
webs — spider condos —
block our passage.
Rain droplets, like diamonds,
hang from the silk.
Ruth Ellen gently
brushes them aside
with a big stick.
Hard work,
the intricate webs
are strongly anchored
and she is sprung back
a few attempts
before she clears a path.
“I didn’t want to ruin
such art,” she says
as we roll onward,
ever upward, under
the canopy of trees.

Suddenly, bright yellow posts
mark the edge of the trail.
“USMC,” they are stamped.
We wonder what that means.
But no one said “Keep Out.”
So we continue our climb.
Beside us, steep drops
down the rocky, jungle slopes.
We stop and stand at the edge
and all we see is a
carpet of green, mile after
mile of mountain,
inviting,
embracing,
nurturing.
We stand, and with
upraised arms we shout,
“Top O’ the world, Ma!
Top O’ the World!”

The trail ends abruptly,
an anticlimax at
a barbwired U.S.
Army enclosure,
a microwave tower,
concrete and steel
monstrosity, way out
of place here in Heaven.

Reluctantly, we turn and trek
back down the trail
of the banana spiders.
On the main road,
on a rare straight stretch,
a sign in kanji and English shouts:
“Speed Down!”
Of course!
Speed down!
There is no incessant voice
from Tokyo, some editor
demanding 10 more inches
of copy in 15 minutes.
There’s no newshole
for the newswhores to fill.
Speed Down! and smell the —
well, hibiscus and pineapple
will have to substitute for the
fabled roses.
Speed Down!
and smell the ocean.
“Speed Down!” it shouts,
(“You’re on vacation.”)

Day Six:
A bad body day means spending the time
inside, reading to my soulmate as she
fights the phantom pain the disease insists
is the price for a few pain-less, or rather
less pain-filled days.
(Pain and fatigue play
their game upon the field
that is her body;
sometimes, like soccer,
scoreless, some sweet succor,
sometimes running up the score.
They are in double digits today.)

Yet, she still serves me a grimace
with a smile chaser as I
read her to sleep —
e.e.cummings’
“I six nonlectures,”
A book borrowed from
a new young poet friend
just discovering his muse
(how I envy the paths he has yet to tread,
the poems and books yet to be read).

And in the reading,
‘ while she dozes and wakes,
drifts in and out of painfullness
I discover ee cummings’
nonlecture on what
a poet is:

“If you wish to follow
even at a distance,
the poet’s calling…
you’ve got to come out
of the measurable doing universe
into the unmeasurable house of being.
If poetry is your goal
you’ve got to forget
all about punishments and
all about rewards and
all about selfstyled obligations
and duties and responsibilities
etcetra ad infinitum
and remember one thing only —
that it’s you, nobody else, who
determines your destiny and decides your fate.
Nobody else can live for you,
nor can you live for anyone else.”

And so, I read to my wife,
my muse, my partner in
life’s discourse and spend
the most pleasurable day
of my vacation.

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At night, dinner with a sunset for dessert.
The thing I like about sunsets best
is, just as the leading lady leaves the stage,
the whole sky explodes in colorfullness,
an ovation for another day well done.
My love loves best
this dimming of the day
when all cares and pain
like butter melt away
and, like an old friend,
the night comes to cloak our nakedness
with a fine silk robe.

Day Seven:

On the Seventh Day I wish
I could say we rested,
but instead we drove
as the sun shone strong
back home to where our worries
and cares waited, pouting children
mad we didn’t take them along.

 

By David Allen
Okuma, Okinawa
October 1998

Like my poetry? Then buy my book, “The Story So Far,” published by Writers Ink Press, Long Island, N.Y. You can find it on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Story-So-Far-David-Allen/dp/0925062480/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397184666&sr=1-13&keywords=the+story+so+far) in paperback and Kindle formats, or by sending$10 to:
David Allen
803 Avalon Lane
Chesterfield, IN 4603

The 9-11 Museum is opening at Ground Zero in New York City. Here’s a poem I wrote about the Day the World Changed.
9-11 Museum 2

9-11 Museum 4

THE DAY THE WORLD CHANGED

At 11 p.m., abed in our Okinawa home,
My ringing phone shattered the silence.
“Turn your TV on!” a friend shouted when I answered.
“A big damn plane just hit the World Trade Center!”

Damned indeed.

As my love and I watched
CNN International over the rest
Of the sleepless night,
We witnessed the second plane
Plow into the towers,
And saw reports of a third
Smash into the Pentagon,
And a fourth crash into a Pennsylvania field,

Then the towers fell.

7,600 miles away, the night cloaked
Our rain soaked cabin, as
Typhoon Nari sat 37 miles offshore,
Threatening a third pass.
It struck once as a tropical storm
And then turned to wallop
The island with 113 mph winds
And 13 inches of rain, destroying
Okinawa’s sugar cane crop,
Darkening 23,000 homes.

The next few days were a blur.
“Get reaction!” my editors
From Tokyo demanded.

I called Marines, soldiers, airmen, sailors,
Civilian base workers for their thoughts.
I bugged commanders for troop movements,
Increases in security. What would happen
When the bases, which cover a fifth of the island,
Opened after the lockdown for the storm?

We all knew there’d be no return to normal.

“I cried,” a woman from New York,
Who sold cars on the air base, said.
“I used to Swing Dance there every week
On the 108th floor at Windows on the World.
I can’t believe it. New York is my home
I always thought of it as indestructible.”

“I’m overcome with grief and anger,”
Said a retired Marine married to an Okinawan.
He was preparing for Nari’s third strike
When he saw a Japanese TV report of the attacks.
“This is war. This is another Pearl Harbor.”

“What’s next, World War III?”
A percussionist for the Marine Band asked.
A corporal from New York, he said he
Was about to be discharged and married.
“I cancelled both,” he said. “I can’t leave, not now.
It may sound crazy, but I can’t quit my country
With something like this going on.”

A soldier’s wife said she felt safe on Okinawa
“Or at least I did until my husband instructed
Us on how we have to be careful and wary
Of any terrorist attacks.”

“I won’t be saying `Have a safe flight,’
So lightly anymore,” an Airman said.
No one, it turned out, would ever be
As free as we were on September 10th.

In South Korea the military slapped
A ban on all off post travel.
On Okinawa cars were no longer waived
Through the gates if they had base decals.
Everyone had to show their IDs
And cars were randomly searched.

In the Plaza Housing Area
Children opened a lemonade stand
To raise money for the rescue workers.

The air base commander announced
His units were, “Ready to take
The battle – the war – to the terrorists.”
“ Our lives changed dramatically
On the 11th of September,” he added.
“Get used to it!”

Some Okinawans, steeped in the islands’
Spiritualist native religion, believed Nari
Spared them from the terrorists.

In the next few days, Navy ships
Departed from Japanese ports
And jets took off for undisclosed locations.

And rumors started to spread.

Islamic militants had infiltrated into countries
Throughout the Western Pacific, one Japanese paper reported.
“Well before Tuesday’s assault,” another printed,
“The United States informed the Japanese government
That terrorist action was anticipated.”

Reports from Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan stated
Islamists were preparing attacks on U.S. targets.
On Sept. 8 in Manila, three men from Oman were detained
After they were seen in a hotel room videotaping
The nearby U.S. Embassy. They were released.
A later search of their room turned up traces of explosives.

There was a new feeling in the air –
Fear.
Anger.

Late one night I sat outside my cabin,
Sipped a beer and gazed at the lights
Of the harbor below, realizing nothing
Would ever be quite the same.
I opened my journal and wrote:

Terrorists took
Security away
From Americans today.

Now we’re as scared
As a bus rider in Jerusalem,
A shopkeeper in Derry,
A banker in Basque,
A Hindu in Kashmir,
A Muslim in Serbia.

Now, we’re all scared .
Welcome to the terror-ble times.

By David Allen

ANOTHER MOTHERS DAY POEM

Me and Mom 1949

Me and Mom, Charleston, S.C., 1948.

THE DAY MOM DIED

The day Mom died
My doorbell rang
Twice, two times in
The afternoon.

But when I bound from my chair
There was no one there,
Or anywhere near,
As I scanned the scene
For signs of a prank or the post.

After the second signal
I tested the bell for a short
Or some other cause.
But it worked just fine,
No gust or glitch had
Had set it abuzz.

Hours later I got the word
Mom departed this cold world.

My wife suggested
Mom stopped by our island,
Which swarms with ghosts,
To say goodbye to her oldest son,
One child absent from the last bedside.
And I just shrugged,
And would still, except —

The day they turned our Mom to ash
The doorbell rang again.
And her grandson answered only to find
No one waiting to come in.

And in the months that followed,
The doorbell never repeated its
Eerie ring, sounding only
To announce a package delivered
Or a neighbor stopping to say “Hi.”

I guess Mom said her final goodbye.

By David Allen
Okinawa, Japan

Ishikawa_City_from_Mount_Ishikawa

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OKINAWA MORNING

7 a.m.
The sun rises
lazily over Ishikawa,
blazing yellow bands of sunlight
spread apart the curtain of clouds
that enclosed the city in darkness;
suffused sunbeams cast rays
upon the warm waters of the bay,
where an oil tanker glides slowly
over the mirror-smooth surface,
winding its way
to a finger of a pier jutting
out from the rocky shore.
Up here, on a hill far above
the awakening city, a hawk
slips by on an updraft
and mourning doves coo,
silencing the tree frogs and geckos
who cloaked the night with their croaking
cacophonous clamor.
When the cooing halts, I can hear
the gentle whisper of the wind
caressing the jungle foliage of our hillside retreat.
Directly below, no one invades the
calm of the dew-covered golf course,
its luscious greens pale compared to the riot of
the hundred shades of green
of the jungle and the sugar cane
and tea fields that blanket
the land leading to the bay.
Yellow hibiscus flowers open
and bid “Ohaiyo gozaimasu,
genki desu ka?”

Ah, it’s morning at the Cabin Serendip
and all is “genki desu.”

By David Allen

My interview for my Stars and Stripes story about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. At the time (summer 2009) I ran the Okinawa News Bureau for the daily newspaper. Now I am retired and living in Central Indiana. I can’t stand the goddamn cold!

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