Quit teaching in 1997. Since then still writing poems—and some stories—that still manage getting into print. Hope that doesn’t stop, since I’m working on a 2nd New & Selected Poems, covering 2004-2016.
Yours the voice, grandfather, so trained to stage and flair,
you now walking past the new Grand Central
Station where one-winged indoor birds
must fly in pairs,
you just back from performances in Winnipeg
strolling past the Armory
exhibit, the art so twisted you can only grin
where an audience abhors
You know this walk through downtown
past the churches that cause a twitch behind
gas light flaring the breath of lovers,
electricity the sharp string that runs through
your chest, the pain of her leaving you
like the tremble of holding your son
who will never be yours,
though it’s me,
the son’s son, in the next century,
telling you the women in doorways,
their sad eyes and seedy furs, are just what’s left
of a playbill,
and this place that sings all around you
is the poem you walk within, the last haven,
the first awakening,
where your boxer’s hands,
and dancer’s feet
and tenor voice
and crippled smile
are nothing to the night, to time, to the slow dawn
of apartment buildings, to the early hours
a young man began to write you back
who still cannot see your face.
First Job - 1928
Forget father, you think. What is he but a snapped
pencil. A hole in your pocket. You’re old enough
to leave Holy Cross, where you punched the good
Christian brother who poked you in the chest.
You can drive a car. Change a tire. Prod the dead
spark of wires, looking for something to flare.
Think of your son writing this who hasn’t been born.
Think of the daughter who will carry your eyes
and the cracked link of inheritance that will break
her mind. Think how lucky you are, good looking,
sad eyed, short tempered, up to intricate tasks,
your wife-to-be living down Tenth Avenue,
her readiness muffled by traffic, her name
spelled out in a vestibule. The breeze off the river,
its hint of future gone bad, now just a tart
taste that hovers in your speech. You learn
piquant, brusque. There’s a man you know
needs a helping hand. His store front sign says so.
On the corner an old woman selling flowers
you can hardly name, this day the world is yours.
©2016 John Allman
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