The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Dick Allen

Jumping to Conclusions

 

It’s not at all like hopscotch,

            existential leaping,

or jump-starting a car,

            but more like using

 

logs to cross a river,

            each new one floating by,

an uncertain landing,

            slippery,

 

maybe going to dunk you. Still,

            even before

all the evidence is in, and since

            you can’t take any more,

 

go ahead, what the hell,

            jump.  Only time will tell.

 

 

Dick Allen

Of the Insights That Keep Escaping Us

                                                   after Richard Burgin’s short story, “The House”

 

When we found, in Missouri, the world’s largest rocking chair

and clambered up into it to sit there rocking,

our desultory conversation going back and forth about the way small towns

are given shape and focus by their underlying structures

of social services, highway departments, boards of education,

mayors and clerks, commissions, school bus routes,

a court, a drugstore, restaurant, bar, a doctor, library, playground,

a bank or two, an old people’s home, a war memorial, a tiny park,

there were several moments when in that rocking chair

we almost understood the gridlines beneath us,

the whole of it, the way the gridlines were woven to hold us up,

so mundane no one was writing their poems or painting their feelings,

the interactions of funeral parlor, firehouse, arts festivals,

boy scout and girl scout and cub scout and Brownie troops,

zoning boards and PTAs, church suppers and telephone poles,

but then a Missouri wind gust touched our shoulders

and a song from a passing car caught us in mid-realization,

its driver having improbably rolled his driver’s side window down

to stick one elbow out as we used to do on the hottest summer days,

radio sending Elvis or Patti Page or the Everly Brothers into our own small towns,

simplifying the tasks that lay before us for our teenage years

into you can do anything that you want to do

but lay off of my blue suede shoes,

and we lost the thought, we lost the thread, we lost our minds

up there rocking slightly, amused, distracted

on Route 66, in Missouri, in the world’s largest rocking chair.

 

 

Dick Allen

Hideaway

 

It wants you to be there

            sitting at its soda fountain

            with your right hand around a glass of vanilla coke,

            behind you what could be the last American jukebox

            playing Ella Fitzgerald singing “Hernando’s Hideaway.”

 

It wants you to be there

            as if, in a game of spin the bottle,

            it had snuck up behind you

            and placed its hands over your eyes,

            whispering, “No one cares how late it gets.”

 

It wants you to be there

            convinced you’ve earned the right to be there,

            within sight of grain silos, windmills,

            snow fences leaning from the wind’s last blows,

            beside some old dirt road without a turn-around.

 

It wants you to be there

            sitting on porches, eating corn on the cob,

            bantering with friends, calling it a day,

            killing time, making fun of the world,

            placing in a small vase lilies of the valley.

 

It wants you to be there, never again waking

            at three or four a.m. so sad and angry and jealous

            you have to read the Collected Works of Kant again

            to bring on sleep..  More often than not,

            it wants you to think about the tango’s rhythms.

 

It wants you to be there

            somehow become completely convinced at last

            there is no Washington, D.C.,

            no wars in the mountains, no inequities,

            not a single fortune to be made or lost.

 

It wants you to be there

            out of sight, out of hearing,

            like a Chinese official banished in the Later Liang Dynasty,

            forced into drunkenness and painting vertically upon silk scrolls,

            or writing poems solely for the sake of teacups.

 

It wants you to be there,

            telling patches of clover and buttercups and dandelions

            they should grow in abundance.  It wants you looking

            at the sunlight upon them

            and sunlight upon the rest of all that is.

 

 

 

DICK ALLEN's newest book is 2016’s Zen Master Poems, a “new classic” collection of his short Zen poems from Wisdom Inc./Simon & Schuster.  It follows Allen’s This Shadowy Place, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize.  Dick Allen has other new poems recently published in or forthcoming in Verse Virtual, Plume, South Florida Poetry Review, 32 Poems, American Scholar and other periodicals.  He lives by the small Thrushwood Lake in Connecticut, where he devotes the main part of his life to poetry.

 

 

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