Review of The Short Story of You and I
by Richard James Allen.

Issue sevenIssue Seven Reviews

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Review by Wendy J. Dunn



is the only thing that does last,
beyond the karmic astral space junk
drifting like detritus
from lifetime to lifetime
until it’s finally worn into nothingness

Love travels beyond lifetimes.
It doesn’t just go on for eternity.
It is eternity.

Desire may be its currency
and sex may be its paydirt,
but love is the purpose of time – from The short story of you and I.

I have just finished reading this collection of poems and am now sitting here in a reflective mood. It is right I should reflect, because Allen’s poems also reflect, deeply pondering about life, love and death through the experience of living. Poetry of real worth acts as a mirror to the poet’s heart and soul, connecting to hearts and souls of others. Allen achieves this connection. In these poems, you hear Allen’s voice confiding to you, telling his story of love, loss, his human existence. You hear the beat of his heart, steady and strong, drumming a measured beat throughout the words of his poems.

Emily Dickinson once wrote in one of her most famous poems, ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’. This is what Allen has done in the poems offered in his book. Thoughtfully arranged, his poems speak from a place of truth. I feel tempted to quote Plato too – because these poems are also a work of philosophy, grappling with all the questions humans have asked of living since time began.

The poems take us on a journey contemplating the haunting reality of loss, and how grief never goes, but is something we carry with us, is part of us, to the end of our days. As Allen writes in one of his poems in this collection:

Where you were is now a space
palpable space
though it has no edges
and your lack
while in truth blends
with all others I have experienced
nonetheless is something
I feel
in particular
as if there is a special emptiness
now in the world
left by your departure

Yet, these poems, with their quiet, reflective, mulling of what is to be human journeying forth into life and its sorrow, also powerfully illuminates how grief and loss, if it does not destroy us, deepen us; deepens us in ways rip yet another skin from our very being and births us anew, bringing us closer to who we are supposed to be.

There is so much raw pain voiced in this work, but, in the end, it brings home the reality that loss and grief are also forces of creation.

But in this moment of illumination
you are radiant, fully yourself
– Whole, complete, fully yourself – with all your voices,
in the centre of the convocation of all your past and futures
fully awake to the damaged miracle.