Dick Allen

A Kind of Spanish Rhapsody

Sunlight through the oriental curtains too literal,
I go out to Neruda

where he’s still floating in a small boat nearly capsized in color

and ask for a glass of orange juice,

a rose trellis,

blue canaries in upward-tilting flocks,

but he just laughs.  "In your new century," he says,

"no request can be simple.  You must ask for the seven mushrooms
growing above the smokestacks of Detroit,
or a long drive through those random thoughts a woman has
when she stands on the edge of a deserted square,
wearing high heels." . . . Hundreds of red and silver, gold and black

fans on the curtains, each one


by the rapturous pattern. . . . "I paint my journeys

from hill to dale and back again," an artist told me,

"and when sometimes a Parrish blue comes through the door,

or Bill Haley and the Comets,

or my latest obsessions (waterglasses, porches,

the sadness of old computers),

I try not to hide."

That stopgap measure of the 1960s,

"This is the first day of the rest of your life,"

won’t go away. . . go away. . . go away. . . . And now

a light wind moves the welter of leaves outside our windows

up and down, sideways, over and under each other,

and our neighbor’s dragging his garbage cans back up his driveway

(one plastic, one metal),

over the cobblestones.  Last evening,

I watched him hitting scores of damaged golf balls

far out onto Thrushwood Lake.  He was cursing / applauding

until it grew too dark to see a thing. . . and . . .

isn’t that the way, now?  Isn’t that the way,

coming in from Neruda

as if into harbor, dangling both feet from the stern.




The Problem of the Trivial

What are we to do about
the Problem of the Trivial, he wondered again

on his way to Evansville, but it might have been anywhere

the road went beside a river for a while.  What are we to do about

           Travis Tritt’s hair,

           the devil and the deep blue sea,

           e-mail Spam?

                          It’s the specific, the thing about the thing,

that interests us greatly, he thought, and yet tomorrow
the store window changes into Canela en rama.  He was heading south,

trying to make sense of 9/11

     like everyone else that year,

and of zip codes,

and black scanner lines like tiny vertical shades pulled open.  Trivia,

he thought.  Worthless, lonely, common, all mixed up

with the Eternal.  In Evansville,

nothing was waiting for him but another Howard Johnson’s,

or maybe a Cracker Barrel.


                                                               (What are these names
                 when placed beside pines, rainbow, stars, the wind,

                 grass, meadows?
  And yet the evocations
                 of Mermaid Tavern,
    The Texas Book Depository,
                     Crystal Palace

                     could make anyone shiver.  Reductions or essences?  The crow

                 or the digital camera taking a picture of the crow,

                 hands holding the camera, viewfinder,

                 the man behind the camera, the world behind the man,

                 solar system, galaxy, universe. . . .)


                                                           That afternoon,
dropping all the way down from Chicago on Route 41,

he must have passed within a mile or two of thousands

of people he’d never meet (in this lifetime),

specks of consciousness like a myriad of tiny Christmas trees

in windows of houses in small towns along the way:


Millions of secrets.  Brain cells.  Eric Burden and the Animals singing

Gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing I ever do. . . . There should be, he thought,

rest stops in Trivia, a clearing among Coca-Cola bottles

where a single tree might flourish beside a single boulder,

and for miles around nothing else

but horizon and sunrise or horizon and sunset,

geometrical shapes and silences, and you could sit down there

beside the tree and boulder (or lilac bushes) and whistle

a pure note or two--as there are, sometimes, in poems and symphonies,

even corners of paintings. . . .

     A thudding noise shook his car, but it was only

two Sikorsky helicopters flying low, trolling for someone,

a sound he’d grown familiar with from city nights,

searchbeams near the liquor store.

He reached for the red and yellow Lay’s potato chip bag,

the trivial details of his life

flooding around him as they had for the black-haired woman

who knelt in a kimono before an altar in Japan

where scores of Buddha statues gleamed among lit candles,

and for those people in the Twin Towers,

thinking Microsoft, Bell Atlantic, Donna Karan, Levis,

Battery Park, Millionaire, Survivor

until the planes struck

     and then the prayers took over

                                                        and then the towers fell.

The Problem
of the Trivial. . . .

                             The unavoidable

tiny words on which each whole life rests.  “Evansville,”

he said aloud, and then

“Hard times in the neighborhood,”

which had happened on his radio a few minutes earlier,

and meant almost nothing

toward the end of the first year of the new millennium

in what was as good as nowhere: Indiana,

                                                   Route 41,


hands on the steering wheel, shuddering, driving south.














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