Against the Law

“New Research Shocks Scientists: Human Emotion Physically Shapes Reality”–headline from the Enlightened Consciousness website

 

Though lacking the patience for methodical proofs,

any poet could have told them what the shaken

scientists found: Emotions defy the laws of physics,

shoving their hands down inside our genes

to make us writhe and dance; emotions seduce us,

drag us into bed and fuck us over, but it’s reality

that wakes us up with chainsaw snores

or rancid morning breath.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

 

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The Skeleton Dance

Death crawls behind my eyes

like darkness seeping from the end

of the tunnel that drains the light

of day away at dusk and blackens

it for night, pulling down the sun

and sucking its stellar siblings into airless

voids that snuff out their lambent fires;

but then my dilating pupils draw in

the rising moon that makes death’s

frail bones glow white, its bleached teeth

grinning from cheekbone to cheekbone

as it resurrects itself, tilts back its skull,

and rattles its feet into the dance.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

The Unslept

In the wind of the night,

a dog howls at the crescent

moon fractioned against

the round shadow

of its former fullness, leaking absinthe

dreams over the restless, fretful earth,

troubling its insomniacs

with wide-eyed consciousness,

as if Lethe flowed around them

but they somehow remained completely dry.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

Unrealized Potential

After L’Arlesienne by Van Gogh

 

The crumpled pages of the open book seem

ready to take flight from the mossy table

like a paper kite from a meadow,

but the brown-skinned woman,

not old, but old enough to know,

whose tired but sensitive hands

have thumbed them into perpetual

memory, does not look down

at the familiar pages, but off

into mustard-lit space, not

at the kite skipping along the ground,

but at the sky it’s aimed for,

not at the inadequate words

but at the ideas they might

have expressed, were such

things possible at all. Her

other book, the red one,

lies there closed; of it,

she’s had enough already,

its story ignoring hers.

 

Note: My result from a workshop session on ekphrastic poetry led by Mark Wagenaar and Mary Moore.

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Going Toward Darkness

Nothing going toward darkness

stops that early, though it moves

haltingly, loitering half-shadowed

between moonbeams, alternately

lobbing fears at your window

and slinking back behind

nightmare trees. Anxious

agitation winds you up in sheets,

but the tangled covers cover

nothing; going toward darkness

you shiver, cold, exposed.

Note: Based on a deconstruction of Mark Strand’s “The Coming of Light” for a workshop led by Jericho Brown.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

The Inevitable Birthday Poem

The tumbled geometries of the cityscape

bask in pools of light–cool blue, warm golden;

the tenderest top leaves of the young pear tree

adjacent to the rooftop deck slow dance

to the softly swirling autumn breeze

on a still-too-warm October evening,

and azaleas bloom out of season.

Another birthday; I’ve rolled a double five.

 

I guess it’s good enough to be alive,

not important to understand the reason,

but to  take the air and just keep breathing;

treat others kindly but do as you please;

don’t be afraid to take your one big chance.

The Boss says open doors don’t mean the ride’s free;

to your history you may be beholden,

but the road itself is your escape.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper