July 7, 2016

Three poems by David Allen: "What is Freedom," "Freedomland" and "Preparing for the Reunion"

David Allen is a freelance writer and poetry editor of Indiana Voice Journal. He was born in South Carolina and raised on Long Island, NY, which is enough to make anyone a bit crazy. He is a former sailor, war resistor, and journalist, writing for newspapers in Virginia, Indiana, and the Far East before retiring to Central Indiana. His poems and short stories have been published in several journals and he has two books of poetry, "The Story So Far," and "(more)," both available from Amazon.com. He has a blog at www.davidallen.nu and is an active member of the Last Stanza Poetry Association in Elwood, Indiana.


What is Freedom? 

Now, there’s a word abused,
misunderstood and misused
by the Far Left, the Far Right,
the loose cannons, the uptight,
the free spirits, the lost souls,
the imprisoned, the paroled,
the enlightened, the dimwitted,
those without, those with it.

During July 4th fireworks
the patriotic jerks
use the word without thought.
“Support those who fought
for our freedom!” they scream
but no war in decades, it seems,
was fought to preserve
their Freedomland dreams.

Yes, we’re the Cops of the World!
And as that freedom word’s hurled
as we awesomely attack
I am taken aback.
Are we bringing them democracy,
or some new tyrant’s monstrosity?
Are we trading our children for oil,
sending them to die on foreign soil,
while the rich pad their bank accounts
and our Middle Class fails to surmount
the inflated hills of credit card bills?

Freedom, yeah I wish I was free
from phone taps and cameras that shadow me,
from the x-rays and pat downs at airline gates,
from small-minded leaders preaching hate.
They say, “Freedom’s not free,” and that’s no lie,
it cost all of us much, the price is high.
You see, the freedom we have in the USA
costs the freedom we’re willing to give away.


Freedom’s not a breakfast food,
I don’t care what cummings said.
It’s the ghost of Freedomland USA,
a short-lived amusement park
with a history theme in the Bronx,
acres forming a large map of America.
It had New York harbor tugs
and horse-drawn trolleys,
a 19th century brewery, a Jewish deli,
and old Chicago was set afire every 20 minutes.
There was Elsie the Cow in the Midwest,
San Francisco’s Chinatown and the Barbary Coast,
New Orleans Mardis Gras parades
and a huge King Rex carousel.

This gala celebration of America
lasted barely five years in the early 60s,
dying from lack of easy access
for the crowds from Jersey and Long Island
and the tourists downtown.

But the thing I remember
about Freedomland most
are the fights that broke out
between teenaged newsboys
there for a fun-filled night of freedom
bought by new subscriptions.
Those who planned the boys’ night out
failed to understand they couldn’t
put us Newsday kids with lads
from the Long Island Press.
Our longstanding rivalry got out of hand.

The meaning of freedom was lost
as the newsboys practiced
the all too common human urge
to punch whoever’s different
in the nose.

Preparing for the Reunion 

This will be strange.
Forty-six years after
giving my last salute
on the quarterdeck,
I am embarking
on a road cruise
back to the scene
of many crimes –
a reunion with shipmates
far removed from the
liberty calls of our youth.

What should I pack?
and what should
I leave behind?
Old pictures, for sure;
salty sailors on the fantail
sipping coffee,
sharing the scuttlebutt;
rum and coke sodden smiles
grouped around a bottle-laden
table at the Lucky Seven.
The warm tropical air
of Old San Juan
still soothes my soul.

And look, here’s a picture
of me astride a pony
in a Panama City park,
taken the same day when,
during a train ride back
to the ship, one of
our drunken crew
reenacted how the whore
at some mildewed club
showed us how she could
smoke a cigarette with her ass.
We pushed him into the next car,
filled with officers and
Panamanian locals.

I might also take
the two pieces of my uniform
that survived the years.
The stained white short-sleeved blouse
(we didn’t call them shirts)
I wore on liberty –
a good two sizes too small
for me now –
and the shiny silver ship’s
belt buckle I still
wear with my jeans.

But what should I share
about the after-life?

Would they be offended
by my anti-war work?
Or the 36-year adventure
as a journalist, the last nineteen
covering the misdeeds of American
servicemen on the islands
of Guam and Okinawa?

I’m not sure.

And maybe I should
omit the stories of the Glebe,
communal days in Northern Virginia,
LSD parties in the pasture,
scaring the cattle and
Daffodil, my goat.
I am sure tales of the broken
marriage and custody wars,
the frustrated years
raising preschool kids
on my own, and the joyous
later times spoiling
their children, would ring
familiar bells.

But I wonder what they’d think
of open mic poetry nights
in the Gate Two Street bars
outside the sprawling air base
on Okinawa?
(I did write poems back
in the sailing days,
but shared them
only with a select few.)

I don’t know,
it’s hard to say how
this reunion will play out.
Will it reunite, rekindle
old friendships?
Or underline why we
all went our separate,
different ways once
I left the Grey Lady,
striding down the gangplank,
seabag over my shoulder,
smiling as the quarterdeck bell
rang and the Officer of the Deck
proclaimed, “David Allen,

~David Allen

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