Posts Tagged ‘poem’

BRAIN 6

BRAIN MALWARE
By David Allen

The past caught up
to my second son
on a warm June day.
It lay in wait
in his old home town
until he returned
from an island life
that soured with divorce
and drunken days
that turned into weeks.
Months.

Matt had come to visit
and clean himself up,
pledging he was done
with booze and drugs;
and would start to climb
the 12 steps to sobriety.

But an old friend visited,
bringing a gift.
“Something to take the edge off,”
to ease the alkie shakes.
His past edged the present aside
and he took a hit.

It sent his blood pressure soaring.
Blood rushed into his brain,
squeezing the frontal lobes,
clotting into a cranial pool.
It knocked him out.
Fate had come a-calling.

His brother and I followed
our dog’s freaked out barking
to the backyard where
Matt lay unconscious
under the hammock,
his eyes cloudy white,
pupils rolled up in retreat.

He was in a coma
for over a week.
The seizure was caused
by what the cops called
a junkie’s “hot shot” —
a dose of drugs offered
as a friendly high
that knocks the mark out
and easy to rob.
Matt’s was a combo of meth,
opioids, and stimulants.

“It finally happened,”
was my first thought.
The horror he evaded five years ago,
when he flew back to his island
and his ex-girlfriend killed her new beau
with a heroin overdose,
had come to settle a score.

The damage done to my son
will take years to heal.
The brain is fragile.
A traumatic brain injury
is like a malware program
that scrambles a computer’s
memory; a virus that destroys
the settings that directed a life.

To fix it, sometimes,
you just have to turn it off,
wait a few seconds or weeks,
then turn it back on and
download new settings.
But you have to be patient,
it may take a while
for the new programs to sync
and life starts anew.

My new book “Type Dancing”
Is now available at:
https://www.amazon.com/David-Allen/e/B00DT6TM7Y?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

Type Dancing.jpg
 

I Can’t Sleep

Posted: June 10, 2019 in Poetry
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I CAN’T SLEEP
By David Allen

I can’t sleep
while my son sleeps
this troubled sleep.

A seizure slapped his skull
with a wash of blood
that squeezed his brain
and forced the sleep
with eyes rolled up white
and shaking limbs,
a tube plunged down his throat
to help him breathe,
while one in his skull
drains the invading blood.

And we caress him
and hold his hands
and give assurances
of undying love
as he sleeps
the drug induced sleep
from which we were told
might never end.

I can’t sleep
while my son sleeps
what well might be
the final dream
about what may or
may not come next.

NOTE: My 34 year-old son, Matthew, suffered a massive seizure which flooded his brain with blood. He’s been in a coma-like state in an Intensive Care Unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianaoplis. His condition remains critical.

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Cover art by Jenny Kalahar

T‘aint Nothin’
By David Allen

“This writing’s not all
that hard,” he said,
peering over the poet’s shoulder.
“After all, you never
even learned
to type,
and look how
well you do.”
(But he never saw the callused pads
of my type-dancing shoes.)

Buy my latest book, “Type Dancing,” now available from Amazon

I Am the Dog

Posted: April 14, 2019 in Poetry
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I AM THE DOG
By David Allen

I am the dog you rescued from the streets
and, though I know you cannot receive my thoughts,
I am sure somehow, someday, you’ll just know
I fell in love with you — and the family — instantly.
We dogs can sense good bipeds.
The scent of the other dogs that had you
throughout the years and lives
told me you were good and special.

I love the way you let me stand my forelegs on your lap,
leaning with excited breaths to kiss your face,
even when it interrupts your meal, or reading, or watching the tube.
I love to poke my head through the paper held before you
to ask if we can play another hour or two
of fetch, or tug-it, or please-let-me-out.
I know you secretly want my attention more
than even the crossword puzzles you plead to let you finish.
And I love lying on your lap luxuriating in your touch,
the massages up and down my back,
and scratching places too hard for me to reach.

And the yard! Oh my, the yard!
I love the holes I dig to bury bones and other treats,
the sticks and branches to tear and gnaw,
the plastic rain gutter I like to displace and drag
through the mud to new hiding sites,
the pillow from the swing I ripped,
strewing stuffing about like newly fallen snow.

I love the tasty treats you give me,
the bones, the rawhide,
the baked bone-shaped cookies
and, oh, that fat covered pig thigh
that took me a month to gnaw clean.

And so many other treats — the toys!
I love to tear up the old stuffed bunny,
cotton flying, ears, eyes, and nose
ripped off in the tugging game
(and I apologize deeply for destroying the pillows
and the arm of the antique chair
when you were gone.
I did not know that was not allowed.)

Oh, and I love the little bipeds that visit,
I greet them with wild tail wagging and jumps up
to tell them I will always be their special playmate.

But there are some things I hate,
like that collar with the metal fittings
that clang on the wooden floor
when I drop for a nap near the door,
and the loud noises you make toward me
for reasons I don’t comprehend.

But, still, it’s love I feel
And when I die, I’ll be sure
to leave a contented scent on your heart
for other dogs to sense.
And I’ll tell those in the dog spirit world
about the good times that I spent here,
that there are good bipeds to like and lick,
despite the horrid tales by that grouchy pug
who still writes poems full of contempt and hate
for Billy Collins, his former keeper,

I read that poet dog’s rhymes and lines
And can say as matter-of-fact
He’s not much of a bard, his heart’s too hard,
He’s really nothing but a hack.

 

NOTE: This poem is in response to Billy Collins’ poem “Revenant.”

The Revenant
By: Billy Collins

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you—not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and—greatest of insults—shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner—
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

 

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.

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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.”

My Navigator

Posted: September 4, 2018 in Poetry
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MY NAVIGATOR
By David Allen

It’s been 30 years
and I have only now realized my love, my wife,
is more than my muse and soulmate.
She is also my navigator.

Like our car rides in the country,
where she sits next to me,
her hands holding tight to the fear post
as I sometimes stray too far to the curb,
or forget to stop at a light,
she settles in as I maneuver
the twists and turns of our life.

She endures the plot twists
and miscues, giving directions
that help me to somehow
stay on course for the future we both
deserve – as many more loving years
together as we wish.

She helps set the course,
proving love does exist for those
whose chosen path is
endless love.

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 …”

June Thoughts

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Poetry
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memorialdaypictures.org

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.