R. A. Allen


I went out to my mailbox.
Everything was addressed to a previous occupant (twice removed)
              who is now,
              according to my neighbors,

One theory about the afterlife is that your brain, in its winking
              finality, replays your life over & over, each repeated
              memory growing fainter until celluloid clear—
              a jukeboxy kind of immortality.

But Hoffenstein tells us, poetically, that the heart’s dead are never
              I like this one better.

In my hand I bear “Douglas J. Smythe” to the trashcan.
              We proceed in a manner befitting the occasion.

From his printed name alone I try to summon a face, a biography.
              What did he do, and fail to do, in his brief strut?
              What was he to those who knew him then?
                            And to those who remember him now?

That I wonder about him at all is proof of a life after death.
              Maybe not harps and clouds, but one I would settle for.
              Too, he lives here in the moment of this poem.
                            I am his witness.

R. A. Allen‘s poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly, RHINO, Glassworks, The Penn Review, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Hollins Critic, Rendez-Vous, and elsewhere. His fiction has been published in The Literary Review, The Barcelona Review, PANK, The Los Angeles Review, and Best American Mystery Stories 2010, among others. He has a Pushcart nomination for poetry and one story nominated for Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web. He lives in Memphis, a city of light and sound.

Read more by R. A. Allen

Poem in B O D Y
Story in The Barcelona Review
Poem in The Penn Review
Poem in New Critique
Author’s Website