Dick Allen

How to Topple a Kingdom
April 13, 2012 Allen Dick

How to Topple a Kingdom


Read overly-detailed novels.  Prefer

rain-soaked windows to dresser bureaus

crowded with lipsticks and small white jewelry cases.

When you hear songs about love,

be sure to wash your hair within two hours

or you’ll surely be kidnapped.  If the Kingdom

hops on its left foot and pleads for mercy,

turn your back on it, the Kingdom is playing tricks,

not the least of which is “Tell Me No Lies”

along with “It Don’t Rain in Indianapolis.”

Observe the Kingdom’s rules so stringently

its trappings rust, its bolts loosen.  Since you must yell,

do that in dark windy places like midnight prairie towns

or from fire escapes at 3 a.m. while weeping.

Remember this Kingdom is not heart & soul,

nor is it everlasting,

so lie to it.  Pretend to be as indifferent

as you are to fake eyelashes and string beans.

The Kingdom is a man selling ice cream,

all those scoops of color beneath his hands:

vanilla, chocolate, strawberry,

peach,  banana, blueberry,

pistachio, cherry.  The Kingdom is black limousines

that drive through swirling maple leaves.

This Kingdom is watch bands.  When the time seems propitious,

the fall inevitable as a woman walking a deserted beach,

take along a little Tibetan prayer stone for luck,

and a microchip from a pried-apart computer.

Don’t say a thing.  Simply stare

or raise your arms above your head, as if at the start

of a Falun Gong exercise.  The Kingdom

will tremble.  The Kingdom will soon start to topple,

and you, onlooker,

you’ll be the least of all its dreadful worries.

Dick Allen (August 8, 1939 – December 26, 2017) served as the Connecticut State Poet Laureate and was a Buddhist who lived in a cottage near a small lake in Connecticut. An author of nine books of poetry, including Zen Master Poems (Wisdom, Inc., Summer, 2016), This Shadowy Place (Winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize, St. Augustine’s, 2014), Present Vanishing: Poems, The Day Before: New Poems, and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected, all published by Sarabande Books. He received the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry, NEA and Ingram Merrill Poetry Writing Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, six inclusions in The Best American Poetry volumes, and been a NBCC Finalist as well as a William Carlos Williams Poetry Prize Runner-Up for the Best American Poetry Book of the Year. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker, Negative Capability, The Atlantic Monthly, Rattle, The Hudson Review, The New Republic, Poetry, The New Criterion, The Gettysburg Review, The American Scholar, Ploughshares, Boulevard, The Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Georgia Review, The American Poetry Review, Agni and in numerous national poetry anthologies.   http://zenpoemszenphotosdickallen.net>