The End Is Only the Beginning

After watching the film Keep the Lights On


Old relationships

never really die;

instead, they mutate

like rogue viruses,

changing their form

to re-infect you

in more complex ways;

recur chronically

once they’re in the blood.


The brain responds,

altering its needs,

learning to exist


or building greater

immune resistance;

or yielding to host

stubborn parasite.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

The Nakedness of Strangers

Can’t call him a streaker

because it’s not the seventies

and he’s not in a hurry,

but he is totally naked

walking along the balcony

back to his own apartment

in the middle of the afternoon,

not looking to see if anyone’s watching,

but obviously unconcerned

one way or the other.

By the time  it

occurs to me, riding past

on my bicycle, that

the incident is unusual,

he has made it back

to, presumably, his own apartment,

which he enters,

closing the door behind him,

neither quickly nor deliberately,

as if he’s put everything in the wash

or left the shower to borrow

some soap from a neighbor.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Cyclist Leaving Cafe

Cute Mid-Eastern dude

looking good in olive tee,

shorts, grey canvas kicks;

walking his bike past the cafe,

classic racer, skinny-tired.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper


And Version 2.o, for the editors:


The Cyclist Leaving a Cafe

A cute Middle-Eastern dude

looking the good in an olive tee,

the shorts, and also the grey canvas kicks,

and probably the other clothing as well so that a poem has the  line that doesn’t fit so that it looks more an experimental;

walking a bike past the cafe,

the classic racer, a skinny-tired.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper


Note: The editors turned down some tankas I sent to their magazine.  It was the good kind of rejection; they were nice, said they received many submissions and were fiendishly selective, and offered advice: Don’t stick to the traditional syllable count, and don’t omit any articles.  Maybe they’re right.  I will give it some thought.  In the meantime, though, I couldn’t resist having a little fun.


Were garbage collection an Olympic sport,

my neighborhood’s  crew would medal for sure.

The rev, squeal, swoosh, crash, repeat

of the team vehicle announces

the commencement of their best event,

the dumpster-tossing competition.

As the truck screeches toward a halt,

the star athletes, all Latino,

leap from their starting positions on the sides,

run  figure-eights in the street,

looking, in their neon-yellow jerseys,

like tennis balls bouncing from

a newly opened can, and then

they shoot off toward the curbs,

firmly grasp and lift the wheelie-bins–

that takes some muscle, the large ones

heavy enough even when empty–

running with them to the truck,

dumping the contents, yanking the lever,

half-throwing the dumpsters back toward lawns

as the truck starts rolling forward,

and they sprint to jump aboard.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

White Pickup

I like the way his dark jeans fit

the slender bearded man in plain white tee

and espadrilles who works a bit

on something over a cup of coffee


and then zips his folio,

walks out to his big white truck

and drives off toward what would be the sunset

if it were later in the day and hadn’t rained yet,

but whatever he’s selling, I am sold.

I wonder if he’d like to…


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Bartender in a Cell-Phone Culture

On a quiet Tuesday evening

when the heat of summer

has melted people into languor,

Nick the bartender, wearing the

uniform of his trade, T-shirt,

dark jeans, and grey canvas

sneakers, perches on top of the

beer cooler, cheap ballpoint

behind his ear, bar rag and

bottle opener in his back pocket,

playing with his phone. He

has dark hair, shortish, a little

messy on top, brown eyes,

a shadow of beard, having

shaved recently but not closely.

He’s quick enough when

called upon, but not otherwise

taking much interest in the

few customers, playing with

their phones as well,

though there’s little talk.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper