Posts Tagged ‘reporting’


Posted: September 30, 2021 in Poetry
Tags: , , ,
By David Allen

For decades I was 
the elephant in the room,
jotting down what I saw and heard
when I attended trials and responded
to wrecks, fires, murders and mayhem..
I typed up what I saw and heard
and editors splashed the stories
across newspaper pages.

We were the community’s memory.

I spent 20 years 
reporting in the Far East.
On the fiftieth anniversary
of the War in the Pacific
I interviewed scores of veterans,
sharing their memories of  those
harrowing, island-hopping days.

A decade ago I retired
from newspapers and
threw myself into poetry,
remembering in verse
all I experienced
in a life full of words.

NOTE: This is one of three poems of mine featured In the new issue of The Last Stanza Poetry Journal (Issue six). It's an excellent magazine. Get it at

David Phones

Daily News
By David Allen

No news today
I’m on vacation;
slept late,
no daily work routine,
no papers to read,
no e-mail to answer,
no radio, TV or
Internet news reports
to slog through.
I’m free.

Until the cell phone rings.
An editor from a thousand
miles away says something
big happened today,
can I drop the nothing
I am doing and log-on?
Make some phone calls?
Get some reaction,
find some local color,
something new to feed
the copy beast?
Can I crank out something
for the next news cycle?

Sure, I say, what the hell,
maybe nothing will happen


My books are available on Amazon, both paperback and Kindle. If you want a signed copy, email me at Order your copy today! I am like most poets — poor.

Here’s my Amazon Author Page:


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.



  Advice For College Grads


To new grads:
Don’t take any advice
Without a ton of salt
Especially from me.

So, you want to go
Into journalism?
Well, first grab
Your forearm.
Pinch it.
Then take out
Your wallet.
Feel it.
That’s your future
As a journalist.
You’ll have to be
Thick skinned and
Be satisfied with
A thin wallet.


It does no good
To piss and moan.
It’s better to just
Drink your beer
And piss.




by David Allen

It’s tough to live this life
With no deadlines,
No assignments from the desk,
No editors screaming in my ears,
No restaurants to review,
No typhoon, tornado or terrible
Earthquake to document.

No ambulances to chase,
No next of kin to interview,
No one’s story to tell;
Left with my own,
Worried it’s not interesting enough
To keep the reader’s attention.

The tomorrow’s tally up
And the to-do lists become tomes
Of unfinished business,
Unreachable goals.
This is uncharted territory
And I am lost.

Hell, this is



By David Allen

“It was the thrill of a lifetime
A once in a lifetime experience.”

That was the lede of the story
I wrote about the local sky diving club.
The back story was the advice an editor gave
When I pitched the story to him.
“Sounds great,” he said
“Especially if you jump.”
Sure, I thought. Why not?

All during my interview of the instructor
At the local airport I kept thinking to myself,
“I can always back out.”
So, I learned how to strap the parachute on
And practiced jumping off a four-foot stage
Rolling on my side as I hit the ground.

“I can always stay on the plane,” I thought
As we took off with another student.
“I can just sit here,” I reasoned to myself
When the jumper froze after stepping out,
His left foot on a locked wheel,
The other hanging over open space,
His hands tightly clutching the wing strut.
After a few swats on his backside by the instructor,
He pushed himself away, thinking, perhaps,
That falling to the ground was less embarrassing
Than chickening out at the last minute.

Then it was my turn.
The way I always face a challenge
Is to stop overthinking about the danger;
Just do it, get it over with.
I didn’t hesitate to push away from the plane;
I didn’t panic as I started to tumble over
And almost caught my feet in the parachute lines,
A mistake that could cause the chute not to open fully.
I managed to right myself and enjoyed that fall,
Pleased at the view of the Virginia countryside
Climbing towards me.

I landed on the airport tarmac,
Rolling as I had been taught,
And gathered up the parachute.
I walked toward my photographer,
A huge grin stretched across my face.
“Well, that was fun,” I told him.
“You going to join the club?” he asked.
“Hell ,no,” I answered,
“I’d have to pack my own chute
And I’m not that dexterous.”



Seventy years ago this week the last and bloodiest land battle in the Pacific during World War II began. Twenty years ago I was the Okinawa News Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes and was allowed to cover the three months of reunions and ceremonies any way I wanted. Here’s one of my best stories during that period. The news piece read like a poem and here it is, unchanged except translating it into poetic form.

By David Allen

George Allen White Jr.,
Edward Lewis White,
James White

American Marines who died on Okinawa.
These names are read in June,
in April the names were soldiers,
May was for sailors.

every day.

On April 1,
the reading of the names began
to commemorate
April Fool’s Day,
Easter Sunday,
Love Day,
the day the Americans invaded Okinawa,
struck back on Japan’s home soil
in 1945.

Every day
for an hour at lunch
and in the evening
they came to read the names
at a church high on a hill
overlooking the invasion beaches.
A church with American and Japanese parishioners,
with a Japanese-Canadian priest,
who spent his war in a cold Saskatchewan internment camp.
Every day
they come to
All Souls Episcopal Church
to read the names of the souls

James Preston White,
James Thomas White,
Jerry Wilson White.

They are coming to the end.
Eighty-three days,
each day of the battle.
Returning veterans,
some with wives and grown children,
sit in the back of the chapel.

Thousands of names.
12,281 Americans,
110,000 Japanese soldiers and Okinawan conscripts,
More than 150,000 Okinawa civilians.

Logan Willard White Jr.,
Thomas George White,
Charles Edward Whiteman.

Each name another soldier,
sailor, aviator, civilian
killed in the carnage that was
the Battle of Okinawa.

Listen –

James Richard Whiteman,
Mark Edward Whiteman,
Forrest Whitt,
Joseph Henry Whitaker.

Whisper them softly,
fall into the rhythm.
it’s a Jewish Kaddish,
a Buddhist chant,
a Christian prayer.

Joseph Henry Whittaker,
Marvin Jones Wiggins,
William Robert Wiggins.

Name after name.
Each man some mother’s son,
some father’s pride.
this one the class clown;
that one the brain.

Some were orphans,
no family except their platoon
or shipmates.
That guy was a Gary steelworker,
and wasn’t little Jimmy Whit
the mechanic down at the corner garage?

And what of the names read
on other days?

David Bond,
Earl Graham,
Ernie Pyle.

Wait, that one’s familiar.

Pyle, a newspaperman,
he wrote about these people,
always making sure he got the names right.
Thousands of names for the readers back home,
’til a Japanese sniper reaped his name
for the book of the fallen.

All-American names
Howard S. Schwartz,
Louis Odachowski,
Kazuyoshi Inouye.

Some of the veterans are uneasy
on the wooden church pews,
it’s hard to sit through.
The reader’s voice is hoarse,
so many names.

Robert Wiggins,
Gray Huntley Whitman,
Hugh Whittington.

So many names.
Names inscribed on a striking monument
on Mabuni Hill, where the Japanese Army
made its last stand.
The Cornerstones of Peace,
the names of the dead from all the countries,
carved into 1,200 black granite walls,
stretching to the sea
like the wings of doves.

Donald James Wilton,
Kenneth William Wilkins,
Jack Williard.

The American list is over for the day.
the veterans leave,
handkerchiefs pat at moist eyes.
Few remain in the chapel
as a new reader sits at the table.
She begins to read.

Sato Yoshiro,
Yasuoka Tomohiko,
Murakami Minoru.

More names.
These are Japanese,
a college conscript from Tokyo,
a farmer from Hokkaido.
soldiers in the Emperor’s Army on Okinawa
when the Americans came with their
Typhoon of Steel.

Pak Man-do,
Chou Che-jiu,
Song Yong.

Korean names,
forced laborers,
comfort women.

Masahiro Kohagura,
Masao Ota,
Kiyo Yamashiro…

Okinawa names,
Page after page.
It sometimes takes 10 minutes
to read the day’s American names,
maybe 25 minutes for the Japanese,
much longer for the Okinawans.
That name belonged to a fisherman from Kin.
And wasn’t that the name of the mother from Itoman
who huddled in fear
at the rear of a deep cave with her two children,
shivering with fright as death came calling,
collecting his names?

teenage girls pressed into service to tend
the wounded.
Whole families of names,
each a sad reminder of War’s toll;
each name a testament.
To what?

This person once lived.
“I existed,
I had a name,
I was somebody.”

Read our names,
remember us.


This photo is called “Girl with the White Flag.” It was taken by a GI as a tunnel filled with civilians was cleared. They Survived. Many more did not.

This poem is included in my first book, “The Story So Far,” published by Writers Ink Press (New York), copyright 2004 and available on Or get a signed copy by emailing me at

Cop Reporter 1977

By David Allen

“Got a comment?”
I asked the Public Affairs Officer.
“When’s your deadline?” he asked.
“Three hours,” I said.
“Dammit,” he replied.
“How do you spell that?” I asked.

Bone scanner 2

By David Allen

My aching bones
brought me to this
nuclear medicine lab
where a smiling nurse
filled me with a radioactive
soup that made my bones glow
for the scanner.

Lying flat on my back,
hands over my head,
the lab light darkened
as the huge metal machine
rolled over my body,
two inches above my nose,
and took pictures of my bones
as I quickly fell asleep
(it’s a talent I have).

Soon, I was in a Midwest newsroom
where I spent some eight years
as the ace crime reporter,
listening to some management geek
explain that the news staff
was to be reduced by four reporters.
A RIF, he called it, as if reduction in force
was more polite than just saying,
“Get the fuck outta here.”

I enviously eyed the computer
that sat on a small rolling table
I shared with the reporter
at the next cubicle.
I was hoping the firings would
free up some space, so I could have
the computer all to myself,
and maybe moved my pile of clips
and news releases and other paperwork
to his desk.

I was beginning to enjoy that thought
when I heard my name called.
“Allen,” the pretentious prick
of an executive editor said. “You’re lucky
we don’t kick your sorry ass outta here!
Maybe next time,” he laughed.
and the sycophants laughed along with him.

But I knew I was safe.
I knew where all the bodies were buried
and no no one else had the sources I had.

I looked around the newsroom,
smiled and wondered which one
of the faces I was gawking at
wouldn’t be there tomorrow.
I was about to start making my guesses
when I heard a faint beep
and a voice over my shoulder said,
“All right, Mr. Allen, we’re done.”
“Well, I’m not,” I thought.
But I had already opened my eyes

Man, that old newsroom was
twenty-four years in the past,
and that scene never happened.
Why’d I dream that up?

You know, you never know
why something pops up in a dream,
no matter what the dream studies say.
A car turns into a train with no
effect on the plot; sex with a beautiful woman
suddenly becomes a fight with a bear;
you lose your car in the parking lot
only to find it parked on the roof, ready to
fly you off to a new adventure.

Dreamscapes just happen.
Just like how my bones
All of a sudden, I seems,
Have just started aching with age.



My second book of poetry, “(more)’ is now available in Kindle and paperback editions.  Order your copy today!



9-11 1

By David Allen

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 canceled 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 a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, 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 –

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.

This is a new poem from my second book of poetry, “(more).”  

It is now available on Amazon Kindle. The paperback edition should be available in two weeks. Order your copy today!