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 Poetry Review   



His Longing (The Small Penis Oratorio)
by Paul Allen
FootHills Publishing, 2005
Hand-sewn chapbook, $7.00 (32 pages)
ISBN: 0-941053-69-5
  Paul Allen uses a diminutive body part -- known to deflate male egos and give bedroom females a case of the giggles -- to broach the topics of human frailties and envy.

The cover image of His Longing is Michelangelo's Creation, where it appears Adam is reaching out to God, yet the hands don't touch. Having seen the ceiling art at the Sistine Chapel, I don't recall the size of Adam's manhood. But like most men, he probably wanted more. Allen opens his chapbook with a verse that may answer the question: "Is the Lord's arm too short?" (Numbers 11:23).

In the nineteen poems, man's shortcomings are addressed with a combination of humor, heartbreak, and yes, longing. In "Initial Consultation," the narrator visits a doctor's office where the doctor offers no miracle cure and the receptionist wants another his face.

"Admit" sounds a bit like the first step of a 12-step program as our narrator goes through a number of misadventures on his way home admitting to everyone he meets -- "I have a small penis, and I don't know what I'm doing."

"McQueen" takes place on a sandbar in the Alabama River. Our narrator has been tubing nude in the river with his best friend McQueen, a well-endowed Choctaw. As they warm their bodies on the sand, a boat approaches. Fearing to have his shortcomings exposed, our narrator brings more attention to himself by running around looking for a place to hide.

Allen pays homage to Flannery O'Connor in "He Loses Focus in His Lecture on 'A Good Man is Hard to Find'". Our narrator starts out with a breakdown of O'Connor's use of position in family and religion; and then his subconscious takes over confessing more than he should to his students.

A native of Selma, Alabama, Paul Allen lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where he teaches poetry writing and writing song lyrics at The College of Charleston and is contributing editor of Crazyhorse. His book American Crawl received the Vassar Miller Poetry Prize.   

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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