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.


Four on the sofa, three dudes and a girl,

but only the blond guy is hot, sunk deep

into the worn velvet, legs crossed on the

coffee table. Bright blond hair that’s

natural, not from a bottle, feathered back

like a Seventies style, but shorter, better

cut. Smooth, light-skinned face, with just

a hint of evening shadow, but not too pale;

there’s a hint of colour on the cheeks

and a reddish-brown streak on the nose

from exercise or sun. Lively blue eyes

flicker behind lazy lids; he’s mostly quiet,

but a laugh shows perfect teeth. He’s

wearing regular-dude attire: zippered

charcoal fleece top over a checked

button-down shirt, slate-blue chinos,

grey socks and brown leather slip-on

walking shoes. But what draws you

to him is his composure, his not seeking

attention, his easy self-confidence

among his friends, all of whom court

him in their way—and then that stretch

when they all get up to leave.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Another All Saints Day

The mouldy jack-o-lantern already trashed,

the excess candy optimistically hidden away,

the two smiley-faced ghosts still flutter about

in the cold breeze of morning punctuated

by birdsong too cheerful for a dirge.


Halloween’s a big deal here, though seldom

a serious one, with candy bags and fancy-dress

(admittedly fetching on small boys and girls,

but somehow rather sad when sported

by adults carousing drunkenly through the night,

drinking too much pumpkin ale as the children

gorge on candy and pass out into sickly sleep),

and from time to time, a report of genuine

devilry spoils the holiday for all, mostly

it’s all good, sugar-rushing fun.


Given the holiday’s origins, though, I can’t

help wondering how literal the epic battle is,

whether good and evil warriors roam about

for real on the eve of the commemoration

or inhabit only the landscape

of a convenient mythology.


And, watching the cheap cloth ghosts

swirling around on the porch in the aftermath

of the secular party night, on the morning-after

of the feast day that never seems like one,

I wonder whether the spirits of saints and martyrs,

and of the ordinary dead, the friends and family

that we miss, daily circulate unseen among us,

re-entering this world at the point where

my theology and my skepticism collide.


Though I find it difficult to believe they do,

along with their companion devils,

I burn some incense just in case

and think fondly of them.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper



First Freeze

And so begins the freeze-dance—

hauling potted flowers into the garage

at dusk to prevent their sudden expiration,

then back outside in the morning

so that they don’t miss their chance

to bask in the dwindling hours of sun—

that will continue until three frosts

in a row, when the dance will take a martial

turn, and I will finally admit defeat,

surrendering to winter’s steady advance,

the killing cold, inevitable death.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper