An Otherwordly Moment


It’s called the golden hour, says a friend,

the leading edge of autumnal evening,

when an eerie, unearthly light seeps in

to make a familiar landscape alien,

when, perhaps, this world’s inclination

grazes the portal into another; the

street stretches empty in front of me,

with a car or two, the odd dumpster

set out at curbside early, but no

human sound or movement, nor even

the bark of a dog or fleeting motion

of a prowling cat, all still and silent

except for the rustle of a ragged

wind through the orange and brown

leaves of the great oak next door,

its branches billowing out into a vacant

sky the uneasy color of watery blue

filtered through the rosy shades

of solitude in denial.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Once a Leaf

Oak leaf in my hand,

plucked from raked-up pile,

spreads wings in my palm,

but in my closed fist

crumbles into dust,

sapless residue

of forgotten life:

tender springtime youth,

prime in summer sun,

colour-change of age—

green to red to brown;

then the fall from grace,

now reduced to this.

I open my hand.

A chilling wind gust

scatters the pieces.

Death’s diaspora.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

At the Street-Food Festival

They arrived together at the food festival,

but not obviously connected—a certain

mutual energy, perhaps, but unaccompanied

by physical gesture. Mingling with the lively

crowd on a chilly but cheery Saturday,

they have strolled the open-air corridor

of brightly decorated food trucks and

chosen their cuisine, settling down to lunch.


The slightly sturdier one, bristly-haired,

dark-blond, but with brighter highlights,

wearing an olive hoodie over faded jeans

and grey leather high-tops, leans forward

slightly at the end of the folding table,

munching his sandwich, at a right angle

his sleeker, leaner, darker-haired companion,

leaning back in his X-shaped chaired,

dressed in a steel-blue jacket over

a black T-shirt, his dark-jeaned legs crossed,

feet in grey socks and grey low-top sneakers.

The eat, they converse with familiarity,

but their level of intimacy remains ambiguous.


Their lunch more or less finished, they

still sit at the folding table covered

festively but cheaply with a blue-and-white

checkered plastic cloth, but the blond

has moved from the end and now sits

beside the dark-haired one. sharing

draft beer from a big plastic cup,

and though the still refrain from

overt public displays of affection,

their demeanor clears up any

ambiguity, and even a distant

observer can feel their mutual

affection, take pleasure in their

enjoyment of each other’s company.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

“Non ti amo come se fossi una rosa di sale”–translation of Neruda’s “No te amo como si fueras rosa di sal”

I don’t usually do translations, but I’m taking an Italian film class in which we read Neruda’s poem in Spanish and English in conjunction with a screening of Il Postino, and I wanted an Italian version and couldn’t readily find one, so I decided to do my own. This is my Italian translation of Neruda’s poem beginning “No te amo como si fueras rosa di sal” in Spanish and “I do not love you as if you were a rose made of salt or topaz” in English. (I don’t know the name of the English translator; if anyone does, please let me know, and I will give him or her the appropriate credit.)


Non ti amo come se fossi una rosa di sale, topazio

o frecci dei garafani che propagano il fuoco:

ti amo come si amano certe cose scure,

segretamente, fra l’ombra e l’anima.

Ti amo come la pianta che non fiore e arriva

dentro di se, nascosta la luce di quei fiori,

e grazie al tuo amore vive scuro nel mio corpo

l’aroma soffocata che é salita dalla terra.

Ti amo senza sapere come, ne quando, ne di dove,

ti amo direttamente senza problemi ne orgoglio:

ti amo perche non so amare d’altra maniera,

altrimente di questo modo in cui ne sono ne sei…

tanta vicina che la tua mano sul mio petto é mia,

tanta vicina che si chiudono i tuoi occhi con il mio sonno.


Poem by Pablo Neruda

Italian translation by T. Allen Culpepper, 2014

Note: Thanks to Pam Chew and Bev Bell for helping me correct some minor problems with pronouns and articles and such.