December 3, 2016

Two Poems by David Allen: "Year's End on Okinawa," and "No Christmas Tree"

David Allen is a retired journalist who spent 17 years as the Okinawa News Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper for the American military community overseas. He is the Poetry Editor of Indiana Voice Journal and vice president of the PoetrySociety of Indiana. He has been published in numerous journals and has two books of poetry, “The Story so Far” and “(more),” both available through

Year's End on Okinawa

On Okinawa, it’s Shogatsu,
time for sweeping away the old
and ringing in the new.
Folks gather at the local temple,
where the bells peal 108 times,
each marking an earthly passion
one must overcome for enlightenment.

It’s also a time for gatherings
where boiled sticky rice, “mochi,”
is placed in a wooden bucket
and everyone takes a turn
sprinkling the mass with water
and mashing the mixture
with a wooden mallet.
The mochi is then rolled into balls
and topped with tangerines called “daidai,”
which means “several generations.”

Speaking of generations,
on New Year’s Day adults give children
“Otoshidama, small decorated envelopes
filled with money for starting
the new year right.
It’s their second stash of the season,
since Santa-san also visits
with Kurisumasu surprises.

The year’s last days are also times
for “bonekai” parties, where the old year is forgotten,
washed away with booze, good food, and fellowship;
where the woes of the past are erased
and new hopes for the future are greeted
with drinking salutes of “Kempai!”

See? Year’s End in the Far East
is much the same as in the States.
So, whatever your spiritual bent,
have a great Shogotsu, Christmas,
Kwanza, Hanukha or Festivus.

And have a super great New Year!

No Christmas Tree

News item: The military community on Okinawa once was short of live Christmas trees because a bug-infested shipment from Washington state had to be destroyed. Supplies of artificial trees on island bases were woefully inadequate and trees in Japanese stores were outrageously expensive.

So naturally, my wife and I made up this carol while on our quest for a Christmas Pine in Paradise:

No Christmas trees, no Christmas tree
The bugs destroyed your branches.
Shipped here by sea for you and me
You never got your chances.
No blinking lights, no angel’s heights
No shiny star atop your spar
No Christmas tree, No Christmas tree
The bugs destroyed your branches.

No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
Cut in the great Northwest.
The Customs men had you condemned
You couldn’t pass the test.
No falling needles everywhere
No Christmas tinsel in our hair
No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
Cut in the great Northwest.

No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree,
Your plastic was so tempting.
But your high price turned veins to ice
We can’t afford that yen thing.
And so we’ll go sing “ho, ho, ho,”
To a beach that’s out of reach
We’ll watch the stars for Santa Claus,
And buy a Christmas wreath.”

© David Allen

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