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Prayer Flags

by Dick Allen

In that New England town with Buddhist undertones,
we come upon them lined along the public pier,
mainly white strips of cloth. But here and there
a blue or red one

fluttering among the rest. Dry now, our tears,
Let there never be another 9/11,
No more killing fields, are written in smudged crayon,
or ball-point pen or magic marker

upon each flag. The offshore breeze is strong.
It lifts up all, carrying these messages
into the ear of God...“Let freedom ring,"
another says. Some whisper. Others beg

but no one will be cast aside, although
the Himalayas where God lives seem hugely far
from this small rocky harbor
with its Tibetans, Thais, Cambodians,

nets, and lobster pots...Above the wharf,
a clapboard restaurant sells three-for-fifty-cents,
fabrics from which flags are ripped. Incense
wafts over everything, a kind of surf,

when we sit down for lunch—noodle soup, almond paste—
and write our prayers in tiny Palmer script, and then
walk out on the public pier again
and bind them to a railing as the fishing boats drift past.


Dick Allen’s seventh collection of poems, Present Vanishing, will be published by Sarabande Books in October 2008. His previous books of poetry include The Day Before, which was awarded the Sheila Motion Award, and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected. He has appeared five times in the Best American Poetry series, received a Pushcart Prize, and won grants from the NEA and the Ingram Merrill Foundation. Allen has other new poems forthcoming in Triquarterly, West Coast Review, Cincinnati Review, and Best American Spiritual Writing: 2007. (12/2007)

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