Dick Allen

Dick Allen

Dick Allen is generally regarded as one of America’s leading contemporary poets. His seventh collection of poetry, the Zen Buddhist-permeated Present Vanishing (Sababande Books, 2008), received the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for Poetry. Allen’s previous two collections, The Day Before: New Poems and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected, also were published by Sarabande Books.

Dick Allen has received National Endowment for the Arts and Ingram Merrill Poetry Writing Fellowships, and a Pushcart Prize, among numerous other awards. His poems have been included in The Best American Poetry annual volumes six times, most recently in 2010. Allen’s new poems have appeared recently in or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly, Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, Gettysburg Review, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review and New England Review.

Dick Allen and his wife, poet and fiction writer L. N. Allen, live close to the shores of Thrushwood Lake, in Trumbull, Connecticut. In 2010, Dick Allen was appointed State Poet Laureate of Connecticut (2010-2015), succeeding John Hollander.

Poetry Website: http://home.earthlink.net/~rallen285/


Send me a postcard from
Chile or Tunis to
Tape on my dresser or
Sail through my office.

Let it be frightfully
Luscious or smashing for
Nightmares or psalm-sings and
Scribbles of pencils.

Find me flamingos and
Cats in the jungles with
Faces like moochers who
Thrust out their fingers.

Mail it from beaches where
Waves look like forestry
Ghosts in their gullies that
Waltz in the shadows.

Florida charms me—its
Keys with their looping toward
Cuba, their coral, their
Fishermen bronzing.

Yet, for my needs, if you’re
Touring Morocco and
Chance by a view of a
Harbor or ruin,

Post it to Hartford where
I shall be waiting to
Sweeten the world with my
Blackberry mind.

-Dick Allen
from The Day Before: New Poems


What is ridiculous about the sea
is the huge size of it, the way it mocks the sky,
how it keeps turning itself over and over,
flaunting its amoeba shape, wandering off
into its pseudopods of tidal rivers,
coves and bays. How preposterous
are the little vessels that ride on it,
the capsules it swallows whole, the seeds
of dolphins and whales that glide in its underbelly.
And how laughable, how outside the Tao
you and I must be to it—little swimming things,
meaningless details,
asplash on its coastline this bright August day
the sea is so calm it almost seems to want us.

-Dick Allen
from The Gettysburg Review


I’ll not be doing that now, nor the tropical islands,
the Algerian marketplace, the sunrise, the ocean.
Too many years vanished. I’ll be in a cottage by a lake,
stumbling through books with pages missing,
looking from doorways at my nondescript back yard.
But Godspeed those who still wander,
Godspeed the great lovers, the great adventurers,
the movies and statues they’ll become,
lonesome and blue. . . . Here, this evening,
everything will be quiet except my neighbor’s buzz-saw
cutting into even lengths the wood
he’ll use for something or other that he doesn’t need. . .
and all I didn’t do or dare to do,
will haunt me—those dreams appearing elsewhere,
the jungle wet with rain,
you who I never met, arms lifted up into another’s arms,
in a small house in Cairo, in a market stall
with the abacus and the veils,
or three rows ahead, your face tucked toward the window,
when I belonged to no one on that silver plane.

-Dick Allen
from Present Vanishing: Poems


Surrealist of hedgerows, Baudelaire
Of weeds blown low within a hunter’s brake,
Kite of sorrow in a small boy’s frown,
And truffle scent beneath a winter lake,

How can I solve you? How can I begin
To push my breath out of your counterpane?
Who wrote the numbers on the widow’s back
And tied my language to your liquid train?

Maze of computers, St. Joan of closed doors,
The skidding sound a thought makes in the dark,
Red wine of the Internet, marshland of the Alps,
Tunnel of grass that hides a meadowlark,

Who placed those coffins in your bloodshot eyes,
Planned your wedding through binoculars?
How does chamber music brokerage a wave?
Where’s the chiffon in a calendar?

Marseilles of footsteps, Notre Dame of rot,
Clipboard carrier of Vichy wounds,
Miser who throws pennies in the Seine
Because the Sorbonne stalks a waxing moon,

Why do wrinkles form on solid glass
And wrack the skin your Monet freeways roam?
In Roland’s name, I ask these things of you,
Great Mystery Grimace all my poems storm.

-Dick Allen
from The New Criterion


–after three sentences on simplifying life from Paul Theroux’s
The Pillars of Hercules

I will buy a chicken. I will drink some water.
I will play some music for the people of the town.
I will read a comic book for laughter.
I will watch an elevator moving up and down.

I will finger neckties. I will count to ten.
I will light a candle in the church.
I will throw some pebbles at the ocean.
I will touch the leaves of that white birch.

I will see the streetlights going on and off.
I will sing a tune my mother sang.
I will hear red motorcycles cough.
I will taste the bubbles in meringue.

I will pet a dog, a cat, a tree, a stone.
I will shuffle cards. I will wish some wishes.
I will look into the bottom of an ice cream cone.
I will make some beds. I will break some dishes.

I will whisper secrets to a rusty statue.
I will shrug my shoulders. I will swing my arms.
I will smell the insides of a running shoe.
I will suck the color out of Lucky Charms.

I will choose a wayside. I will eat a breadstick.
I will shout “God help us!” when the morning’s almost done.
I will give a soda can a soccer kick.
I will sink my teeth into the ankle of the sun.

-Dick Allen
from Present Vanishing: Poems


Written out, the words look like the names
of mountain Kurdish towns,
the towns that grow in circles around wells;
or, to the Western eye,
the names of two Muslim brothers
sitting in an Internet café,
smoking, drinking the darkest coffee in the world—
Abrakadabra, Ala Kazam.
But when heard, what glee, what magic in the syllables,
how the rabbit appears from the hat,
the woman, sawed in half,
miraculously emerges from a painted wooden box,
and bows, her body whole again, the stage a miracle,
Abrakadabra. . . . I’m thinking of that boy,
days after seeing his first magic show,
who kept pointing the magic wand his mother brought him
at everything he would change:
his mother’s paste jewelry, poof,
the cat that wasn’t a tiger, poof,
the spin of a leaf caught in the tide. . . .
And if he said it right, climbing the pyramid,
reaching into that place of hope beyond hope,
as once or twice in a lifetime all of us do,
back from the war,
his father would appear in the doorway of their house
holding an entire case of Delicia Bars,
Abrakadabra, Ala Kazam,
and the illness of the world would disappear.

-Dick Allen
from The North Dakota Review


In some museum with gargoyles—I forget
What country it was—
I found the painting my rushed life had sought
Beside a red vase

Unearthed so long ago, I can’t remember
Years and months.
Both works were badly lit. If you were there,
You’d scarcely glance

At either. All your attention would be called
Out of that room
To the master paintings in the center hall:
Roman tombs,

Sibyls, kings in battlegarb. Well, so much for them.
My painting measured
Just 10” by 15” in its frame
Of gilded plaster.

Sunrise, and a flock of seagulls flying through
A ruined abbey,
Above long fields awash with meadow rue
And morning glories.

I stood there for at least an hour, then came back
To look again.
It might have been The Netherlands, Denmark,
Or coastal Spain.

Croatia, Portugal. . . . (The red vase was encased
In a tall glass box.)
A small plaque said no other artist had been traced
Who painted flocks

Of gulls in such a dipping, soaring, peaceful way,
Who tried to speak for us
With all he had, who did, who saved my life. I praise

-Dick Allen
from American Arts Quarterly online

Poetry in this post: © Dick Allen
Published with the permission of Dick Allen