Posts Tagged ‘war’

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.

Veterans Day Haikus

Posted: November 14, 2016 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,

 

Coffee Break  USS Suffolk County (LST 1173)  1967

VETERANS DAY HAIKUS
By David Allen

1.

I’m a veteran
Much thanks for the holiday
But, please, no more wars

2.

It  is quiet now
All along the western front
War wages elsewhere

3.

Ah, this was the war
You promised would “end all wars”
How did that work out?

4.

Veterans have earned
The honors received this day
Not those who sent them to die

5.

We veterans thank you
For all your handshakes and hugs
Now, fund our health care

 

revolutionary-war-15839

It’s in My Blood
By David Allen

Some 240 years ago
Several Allens fought
For American independence
From the British Royal Crown.
While great x-times
Cousin Ethan Allen
Led his Green Mountain Boys
In a revolutionary rampage,
The Allen clan on Long Island’s
North Shore kept Great Neck
A rebel island amidst
Tory King’s County.
One young Allen lad
Even signed up to beat the drum
For General Washington’s troops.
And was wounded
During the Battle of New York.
So, how’s this history feel
After all these generations?
Not so free,
Not so independent.
The Democracy the
Founding fathers fostered
Has become an oligarchy.
We’re ruled by the corporate elite,
The new royalty.
Maybe it’s time for a new …

Um, maybe tomorrow,
Tonight we’re binge watching
Game of Thrones.

Hiroshima2

THE BOMB and CHILDREN OF THE 50s
By David Allen

Twenty years ago
I journeyed to Hiroshima
with my Japanese interpreter
to cover the 50th anniversary
of the atomic bombing
of Hiroshima.

I was stunned by what I saw.
It was a thriving city of more than a million
with only a now hallowed building
that partially survived
the day the city was turned to ashes.
This is where Chiyomi, my translator,
 grew up in the early 50s.

A half world away,
16 years after Hiroshima was leveled,
I was a tow-headed Long Island kid
hiding under my school desk,
hands over my head,
pretending I could survive
a nuclear attack on nearby New York.

Surprisingly, the children of Hiroshima
never experienced that trauma.
“We hardly ever talked about the bomb,”
Chiyomi told me.
“I think the adults — our parents, our teachers — 
tried to prevent the tragedy from touching us.”
Although there are still shadows
of people burned into sidewalks and walls
at the time bomb the Americans called “Little Man”
exploded, Chiyomi said it did not
cast a  shadow on her life.

“With the exception
of the annual memorial,
the bombing was hardly
ever on our minds,” Chiyomi said.
No one talked about it much.
The schools scrubbed
Japan’s Asian aggression clean.
So much time was spent
on ancient Japanese history —
about Shoguns and the
the Kamikazes, intense storms
that smashed two Mongol invasion fleets,
there was little time left for the most recent war.

“No one felt threatened, she said.”

We did on Long Island.
Dozens of low-budget horror movies
depicted rampaging nuclear monsters
mostly giant mutated insects,
terrorizing the countryside.

But in Hiroshima, the worst was long over.
One afternoon Chiyomi and I
interviewed a couple who survived
the devastating blast and seriously injured,
somehow  found each other
and never left each other’s side since.
Surrounding us were a dozen
family members, dazed
in  rapt attention.
They had never heard the story before.

People just didn’t talk
about the bomb that scared
and scarred the young me.
But not Chiyomi.

Hiroshima 1

USMC-M-Okinawa-OFC

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.

THE NAMES
By David Allen

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

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

Names
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
lost.

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.
Silent.
Respectful.

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.
Meditate.

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
like,
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?

Grandfathers,
babies,
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?

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

Read our names,
remember us.

6025

This photo is called “Girl with the White Flag.” It was taken by a GI as a tunnel filled with civilians was cleared. The 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 Amazon.com. Or get a signed copy by  emailing me at david@davidallen.nu.

Battle of Okinawa 4

TWO GOOD LEGS

By David Allen

The American veteran
stood on the stage
tearful and trembling
as he talked, reliving
the hell that was Okinawa
five decades ago,
when he fought a relentless foe
and lost such young, good friends.

He tottered at the lectern
on his one good leg
and, as he tearfully
finished and turned to leave,
he dropped his cane.

As he stumbled
and began to fall,
a hand reached out
from behind and
grabbed his arm
and he turned to look
at his helper.

One of the Japanese veterans
had hobbled to his side
and, throwing down the crutch
that aided his one-legged stride,
said, in heavily accented English,
“Here, friend, let me be your other leg.”

And they walked away
arm in arm off the stage,
comrades in survival. 

My second book of poetry, “(more)’ is now available on Amazon Kindle. The paperback edition is also available. If you want a signed copy, email me at david@davidallen.nu. Order your copy today! I am like most poets — poor.

http://www.amazon.com/more-David-Allen-ebook/dp/B00N6W3DP8/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=1-2&keywords=%28more%29+by+David+Allen

Here’s a review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Wanting (more), September 2, 2014
By Jenny A. Kalahar “the_story_shop” (Elwood, IN USA)
Here are wonderful, literate poems of longing, wit, wisdom and resistance; justice, injustice, the absurdities of life and of growing older. There are lines full of sensuality at every stage of our existence, and of the waste and usefulness around us. Tinged with the atmosphere of the Orient, they are as luxurious as legs that go all the way up. Mr. Allen’s years as a newspaper man stain his poems with a rougher ink that sticks to your fingers long after you’ve turned his pages. There are losses – parents, loved ones, friends – but there are poems of finding and creating. Children, grandchildren, lovers, partners in crime and art all swirl throughout this collection, humming like a secret humming song. But unlike most hummed songs, these words do matter. They do. So read them now and sing along.

assasination1            Princip_arrested

Gavrilo Princip assassinates Archduke Ferdinand and is promptly arrested

WRONG TURN

By David Allen

A wrong turn
A stalled engine
And a cup of coffee
Ignited the “Great War,”
The “War to End all Wars,”
That sparked the century of conflict
That left untold millions dead.

Gavrilo Princip
Leaned against the wall of a café
On Sarajevo’s Franz Josef Street
And wondered how the plot to
Start a revolution went wrong.
“It was a good plan,” he told a friend
While standing on the sidewalk in front
Of Moritz Schiller’s Café.
“Six of us of ‘Young Bosnians’
Lined the motorcade route
That damned royal son-of-a-bitch
Was taking to city hall.
We each had a bomb. Six of us!
How could it have gone wrong?”

The first Young Bosnian
Chickened out and ran from the scene.
The second threw his grenade a second too late
And it exploded under  a car following
Archduke Ferdinand’s convertible.
The heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown,
Emperor Franz Josef’s nephew, was unhurt.
The blast injured two in the second car.
The motorcade sped up , leaving
The four remaining Young Bosnians,
Trained in terror by the Serbian nationalist group,
The “Black Hand,” lost their chance for infamy.

“We were willing to die for a united Yugoslavia,”
Princip told his friend. “Serbia and Bosnia together,
Free from the Austro-Hungarian Empire”

Later, across the city, Ferdinand decided to
Visit those injured in the bombing.
While en-route, the Archduke’s driver
Took a wrong turn.

To his amazement,
Princip saw the Archduke’s touring car
Swing into Franz Josef Street,
He watched in awe as the car attempted to turn
And stalled, just feet front from where he stood.
Quickly, Princip took a few step forward and fired his pistol,
Killing both Ferdinand and his wife.
And the old world died with them.

Princip attempted to turn his gun
On himself, but an onlooker slapped it from his hand.
Nearby police then beat him senseless.
He was tried, and sentenced to only twenty years,
Because he was only 19 years old.
Princip died of tuberculosis in prison
In 1918, just a few months before the war ended
And the wheels spun into motion for World War II
And the rest of the bloody century.

WRONG TURN TWO
By David Allen

“See?” the student asked
When he finished reading
His history paper.
“World War I started
Because of a succession
Of mistakes.”
“A fine piece of history,”
The teacher said, smiling.
“But don’t believe for a minute
The war could have been averted
Had Princip not stopped for coffee.
Franz Josef was looking for
An excuse to invade Serbia,
The capture of the failed Sarajevo
Bomber would have been cause enough.
Hell, a bad night’s sleep could have
Moved him to give the word.
All of Europe was itching for a fight.

These poems were  a challenge for the Last Stanza Poetry folks. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and we were tasked to write a poem about the war.