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Allen Heggen

About the Poet

Allen Heggen’s poetry has been published in Terrains:  A New Literary Anthology  and The Breath of Parted Lips, Volume II:  Voices from the Robert Frost Place. 

Heggen left his native Minnesota and, after a period of wandering which took him to Germany, Colorado and Quebec, has made Newark, Delaware, his place of residence and work. 

His poetry reflects in particular his experience in rural communities in the upper and lower Midwest. He teaches in the writing program of the University of Delaware.


Spring 2014 »

For the care she gave them
they might have been Rosenthal,
Meissen, Limoges, hard as she
worked to pay for them with coupons
from Conoco. She completed
the set at Christmas, the last
two settings a gift from Dad,
who regretted their hard life and
his harsh words, and was anxious
to give her something fancy he knew
she wanted. He wrapped them
himself, mechanic’s fingers
awkward, tangled with scotch
tape and ribbon, a misshaped gift
that shamed us kids, tho’ she
was happy enough to open it.

She used the dishes for Sunday meals
and holiday dinners. Uncles,
aunts, and neighbors crowded
the table, hid the plates under ham
with raisin gravy, escalloped potatoes,
extravagant bought peas canned by Dole.
Cake with sweet-sour lemon icing
cousin Lester said would make
him cry. After coffee the men
moved to the living room, their thunder
hurtling from God to Lester’s Buick
to stories of hard work to hurts
that are best forgotten. Sometimes naps.
Sometimes faces, grim as a scene
from Ibsen, staring through windows
at blowing snow. From the kitchen,
a laugh and the clatter of dry plates.

Of the china, which was pretty enough –
white plates with silver rims, the edge
a diamond pattern in relief, a silver rose
off center – that saucer beneath the plain
glass vase is all that’s left. I’d wearied
of moving them from house to house
and never dreamt a sister might think
of them as heritage for a daughter’s
china cupboard. They were cheap and
freighted with poverty and silence. I
put them on a rummage table; got
a couple dollars for them, maybe five.




Look, he says, look, to the woman
across from him, a woman from work,
he doesn’t know her well, but she sits
in the coffee room and cries like she’s

just slapped her best friend, and maybe
has, and now she’s sorry. Look, he says
again, it’s all right. He puts his hand
on hers and says, It’s not your fault,

it’s going to be okay, though he thinks
it might not be. Thinks of the bills
on his kitchen table; he wonders how
he’ll pay them. Thinks of times alone,

how bad they are, of other nights he’s not
alone, how they’re mostly worse.
He thinks of the god-damned speeding ticket,
stupid, not his fault, was just a moment

caught off guard like the day at the county fair
his old man came up from behind, grabbed
him by the shoulder, turned him, slapped him
both cheeks back hand – he’d done nothin’,

just stopped for one last look at the rides. But
the old man told his mother it was girlie shows.
Was not. He’d just been dreaming. Learned
you never let the big guys catch you dreaming.

To the woman he says again as if
trying to believe it himself, It’s
. He wonders what he’ll do
an hour from now. Beers at home? Go down

to Shooters, bitch to anyone who’s there,
stare at hockey on the screen, pretend
to listen to whoever bitches back?
He feels a tightness in his chest, some weird

pounding in his head. To the woman
whose hand he holds, who’s crying, whose
face falls slowly toward his steady arm,
he only says It’s going to be okay.



  “So we were hitching through France, got a ride
  in this brand new Citroën. The driver stopped
  to let us out. I opened the door, a car passed, more
  than a hundred and eighty KPH,
  took the door off its hinges, kept going.”
    My Austrian friend Hans

My sympathy, I confess has always been
with the driver whose car hurtled down
the autoroute, who ignored the broken door
the way you would a bug splatted on 
the windshield. Guilt? I imagine the driver

without a license, preferring to risk
Gendarmerie for speeding than collision.
My responsible voice says no, it’s a woman
with a kid, sick, asthma, puffed up, blue,
almost not breathing. The voice that likes

LeCarré says, Nah, she’s a terrorist, Algerian.
She’s planted a bomb, it’s ticking;
there’s no time now to stop, she’s
got to get to Orly Field and her flight
to Argentina. Or it’s sex,

the woman’s teeth ever-so sharply and del-
icately biting the lobe of the driver’s right
ear, the combination of speed, tongue and pain
bring him to groan and cross his eyes;
this is not a moment for a man to stop,

check out a bump, and apologize to some
generous numbskull parked on the side
of the autoroute – But no, it’s about
the car, a Z3 Roadster built for speed,
moving out because it can.

Allen Heggen ~

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