Austin Allen

Where He Is

 

When did more people weep for Johnny Carson:
during the last show or the emphysema’s
follow-up act? Tonight, how many weep?
Tonight he owns the time slot of my sleep.
I dream the L.A. leisure suit; I dream his
prairie-boy charm as he invites the stars in—

really a pageant of my own lost friends
restored: and here’s Johnny, and here they are,
as I sit hidden in the studio rafters.
Lavaliers catch and swell their separate laughters.
The host bends at his desk as at a bar
to ask how far the heart’s career extends—

and in mid-sentence, starts to hack and cough
till the sound cuts out and the lights wink off.

Tower Scheherazade

 

Again the death-plot
has miscarried:
she’s kept her head,
she isn’t married—
not by her lights—
and on her cot
(which isn’t his bed)
through hot, hushed nights,
she conjures, hour
by hour, from vapor,
a mind’s-eye tower
of unbound paper:
one thousand stories
or just one, climbing
slow as the moon
of shifting glories,
looming immune
to quakes and fires—
a stock-still, sky-tall
shrine to timing,
which she’ll let fall
when she desires…

Austin Allen’s poems and essays have appeared widely. His first poetry collection, Pleasures of the Game, won the 2016 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from The Waywiser Press. He lives in Baltimore.