New Year Greeting Redux Ad Infinitum


being for, and after, W. H. Auden


We still insist on keeping traditions,

in defiance of all logic.

Southerners, for example,

eating black-eyed peas and greens,

not doing even one load of laundry

for fear of washing fortunes away.

Elsewhere as well, no one dares

to dispense with “just in case.”


Wystan would love the Internet,

for its structure more than function,

though leaking secrets would fit right in

with his penchant for the underground.

He would marry Edward Snowden

to get him British citizenship

and complicate the legal process,

take up exile in Reykjavik.


But their elopement would be a near miss

because of Auden’s inexpedient

insistence on an Anglican ceremony

with candles and incense and a rebel priest.

Would have lobbied for Bradley Manning

to go to rehab rather than prison,

though his interest might have waned

when Chelsea appeared on the scene.


He would have wanted to visit Russia

to see whether the meteor hit,

inspect any craters left behind.

Deplored the Boston bombings of course,

but sounded the alarm about our response,

what’s been lost in our attempts

to halt violence; said of war

truth learned in Spain: All sides are wrong.


Hardly a papist, but might have smelt hope

in the air that Francis stirred.

Nor a royalist, but might have seen

progress in the heralded birth

of Britain’s half-common Prince George,

who thanks to infusion of maternal genes,

might become a handsome young man,

reminding Wystan of German boys.

He still would question how the priests

account for Philippine typhoons,

for wind, and fire, and flood, and crashing

planes and trains and cars, all tragic.

Probably make secret donations

for the campaign to take out Fred Phelps,

insisting if someone called him on it,

that his position was purely rhetorical.


In the dawning apocalypse,

his belief would still hold firm,

though perhaps he would argue

that it has already come,

seeing as, despite our progress

toward a more tolerant society,

we have taken some steps back,

become more anxious, lost our warmth.


Note: Modeled on “A New Year Greeting” by W. H. Auden.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper



Art Punk

He’s a cultivated punk,

aiming for art rather than menace.

Dark hair long on top, slicked back,

with close-buzzed undercut, smooth face.


In black, of course: leather coat,

low-necked tee, pale, hairless chest,

skinny jeans, Doc Martens boots;

holding forth about his semester–


a student home from his college,

with his family at a cafe,

showing off his with and knowledge

to impress those who pay.


Probably thinks he invented chic,

but he’d find, were he to seek.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Looking for My Christmas Story

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and presumably they were not

in the process of making a baby.

Yes, there’s a baby in the story,

and not an insignificant baby,

but that part comes much later,

and is almost beside the point,

or merely a means to an end;

Christ’s impressive words and acts

appear long after his infancy.

Granted, I get the choice of a child—

I mean, present most people with a baby,

and within seconds they’re gawking and cooing—

but in this case I wonder if it

also makes them miss the point,

the symbol, the underlying meaning;

not just the delivery of a baby,

not even merely and infant Messiah,

but the dawning of hope and light,

and ideally a better nature

within all of humankind.

Of course, I’ve nothing against babies,

having been one for a while myself;

it’s just that for some of us today

(I cite myself as one example,

the baby symbolism’s right up there

with sheep and camel metaphors

in terms of relevance to our everyday lives.

I do not discount the baby story

with its appeal to so many,

nor do I critique the gawkers and cooers,

and like so many other Christians,

whether practicing or not,

I’ve placed ceramic Nativity figures

on my living-room mantelpiece

and consider myself a believer,

but sometimes I feel a bit left out,

feel that the story overwhelms

the message it’s intended to convey,

the light and hope encompassing everyone;

or maybe it’s just the gloomy afternoon.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper


At the kitchen table with my parents,

drinking coffee and looking out the window,

watching birds and morning sun on water,

Dad at one end in his pocket T-shirt,

Mom to the side still in her pink night dress,

We discuss the weather, nice for December.

Mom’s made me her take on French toast

after choosing yoghurt for herself;

Dad has a cigarette in lieu of food.

It’s a scene we’ve acted many times before,

its poignancy increasing as we age.

Last night, we watched a TV program

about the influence of Sherlock Holmes

on the development of forensic science;

Locard’s principle of exchange

says that with any objects making contact,

each of them leaves traces where it touches.

In me, my parents’ residue has seeded

a tolerance for difference even wider

than they could have intended, even imagined,

but what dust from me on them has settled?


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper