February 2000

Dick Allen


Dick Allen Dick Allen's latest book is Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected, from Sarabande Books. He has received Ingram Merrill and N.E.A. Poetry Writing Grants. Other recent publications include poems in The Best American Poetry: 1999, 1998, Scanning the Century (Penguin UK), and still more poems are forthcoming in Hudson Review and Salmagundi, among others.

Poem For My 60th Birthday    Click to hear in real audio

From here, everything looks like Mozart's hands,
and barley fields.  When I almost died,
gasping for breath in a red and silver ambulance,
I kept thinking the city was rushing over me,
one consequence of lying on your back and breathing oxygen
through a small plastic mask. Some months later,
I found myself buying book after book of paintings,
Georgia O'Keeffe, Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century,
China in Art,
and didn't know why.... From here,
just beyond the ghost town of my fifties,
everything looks dizzy, as in one of those dreams
when you keep on walking out of enormous forests
onto beaches at dusk. Off in the distance
people or driftwood branches, you're never sure which,
seem to be waiting for a message
or waving to some of those sailboats running so far upcoast
they could almost be shark fins.... Sometimes, I catch myself
losing track of Time, relaxing to its wash, its sound
of sputtering oars and little snags and catches
from popular music... I found my thrill
on Blueberry Hill
.... Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning....
Three coins in a fountain....
But you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?
Afterwards, when I snap out of it, there's this
computer screen in front of me, and it's flashing
enticements and advertisements, links and nooks and crannies
from all over the world.... Those days in the hospital
during my recovery, I'd walk the corridors
and think of how religious was Intensive Care,
the dying man in the room next door to mine
terribly trying to control his daughter's life
right down to her last shopping trip. Elliptical thoughts.
Random feelings.... In a book or painting or a piece of music,
I like to find textures such as I might run my hands across,
a hidden cavern, a little joke
hanging by its tail in a shadowy cave,
some meadows, a crocodile, the footprints
of an old philosopher pursued by elves,
for it's the ramble I love, the nonsensical road
leading to the sensible one, or vice versa. The adventure
of going anywhere at all and not returning
the same person I was.... At 60,
what's so amazing are the everlasting stairs, the raspberry bushes
and Web pages hidden in the dark,
cold wind on a warm afternoon,
sudden connections with the unexpected,
how much less you care about so much.
   And sometimes I can burrow all the way
from under my grudges.
   And sometimes I spend a whole day fishing for poems
in a little blue creek that runs down from the mountains.
   And sometimes I listen to Mozart,
stopping now and then to excuse myself from between the chairs
and step out onto the balcony
over the city, over the long barley fields.




Tone Poem In A Small Forest Clearing    Click to hear in real audio

Animals move in dreams, hazes of shape,
  rustlings and smell, paintings of Thomas Cole,
Debussy's nocturnes. To them, the world
  is always a liquid or a cloudy parting,
warmth in this place, cold in that,
  something to brush against or curl upon,
to lick or to study. Each sound
  comes out of nowhere and recedes
or tightly snaps gone. Shades of dark and light
  have color and taste; wind in their fur
reeks of the lake or wood for which they have
  such memories! Their rituals
lie upon patterns of vast changing days
  and vaster nights: the moon a silver now,
the sun a something in a distant meadow.
...Dreams in which the human animal
walks past or bends down, a nameless thing
  to attack or accept, whose hate or love
they sense is somehow relative to theirs,
  brush on a palette, reed of the oboe,
sharper, mindful, but incredibly more lost
  in the details of waking,
the blanket's ripple as we lift it from us,
  the tiny words we say to know we are.




Dick Allen: Poetry
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 10The Cortland Review