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Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Prayer Flags

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 poetry collection is Present Vanishing: Poems (Sarabande, 2008). The Day Before: New Poems and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected are also available from Sarabande. Allen’s many national honors include a Pushcart Prize as well as NEA and Ingram Merrill Poetry Writing Fellowships, and inclusion in five editions of Best American Poetry. He lives in Connecticut. (updated 10/2008)

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