Dick Allen

The Third Visitor
February 14, 2012 Allen Dick

The Third Visitor


The Third Visitor understands
why we serve him tea in a mended teacup
and when he asks for music we play him
both “Life in a Northern Town” and a Bach quartet.
Since he’s the Third Visitor, we know
that sooner or later he’ll stand up from his guest chair
and go to one of our living room windows.  Looking out,
from what seems nothing, he’ll say something like
“Cough drops manufactured in the Czech Republic
taste better than sautéed frogs legs”
or “As Murakami writes, there’s much to be said
about burning down barns.”  Whenever the Third Visitor
visits us, we try to serve him
mismatched meals, fettucini alfredo
and egg rolls, for instance.  Ice cream and pig’s feet,
naan and salsa.  He always acts delighted,
smacking his lips and exclaiming Carpe Diem!
Via Con Dios!  Non Sequitor! Costa Rico!  Tippy Canoe
and Tyler, too!  The Third Visitor
never asks about the First Visitor, nor even the Second.
He’s good that way.  Rather, it’s our stories
he tries to bring out, and once he convinced us
to tell him about how, on autumn days,
leaves from our Japanese maple
blow off in such sudden huge scarlet gusts our hair stands on end,
or how I can only write on a clipboard
containing about a quarter inch of paper,
or how recently we’ve fallen in love with a capella
and will drive hundreds of miles to hear its finest groups
perform in church basements—how I like the way
a capella can bubble up from underneath some phrase,
chase it down and take it over and then burst forth
like those whole rows of cherry trees a samari warrior
will think of before he plunges into battle.
True interest in others, deep abiding interest
is one of the rarest things I know.
What design of plates do you most like to eat from?
What’s your third favorite sound?
If you had to be hanged, and could choose the place,
where would that be?  When he leaves us,
the Third Visitor always smiles, casting about
for something nice to say.  “I enjoy your eyebrows,”
he once told us.  And at another time,
“You’d be a major success in the banana boat business”
before he strolls or drives away or vanishes
into the night like he does, whistling, free,
filled with the holy spirit and our butter cookies,
leaving us here, so spellbound.

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>