On the hundredth day of rain,

pale greenish light filters through

glistening cottonwood leaves,

illuminating puddles,

on one of which is floating

a single, wind-ferried leaf,

at which a wet bluejay picks.

Note: I think maybe I have accidentally devised a new poetic form, a 7 X 7 pattern comprising seven seven-syllable lines.  Since I haven’t seen such a form before, I’m going to assume it’s new and tentatively call it a “settain” until someone bursts my bubble by telling me it’s actually a common form made famous by the great poet X that I am embarrassingly  ignorant not to be aware of.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

A Bunny Dies, a Cat Advertises Her Triumph, and I Mourn

I’ve learned not to open the door

when I hear the assassin’s crow

disguised as a distress call;

instead, I look out the window

to confirm the slaughter, see

small, furry hind legs dangling

from the calico cat’s mouth.

I know I must praise her

for her skills as a huntress,

thank her for her generous

contributions to the household,

but I cannot bring myself to let her

ferry this death-omen

across the threshold that

holds the cruel world at bay.

Sneaking out the back door,

I invite her to present her kill

to me in the front yard

among the budding flowers,

stroke her head with words

of effusive admiration.

But later, when she has tired

of the game and gone to take a nap,

it is I who must gather the entrails

of the innocent young rabbit

who sinned not but only mistook

the right moment to leave

the grassy cloister and cross the lawn.

The task that one nauseated

me I now take in stride:

“Another bunny; I’ll get

the dustpan and a plastic bag,”

though I try to discharge my duties

with as much dignity as possible.

But still I mourn the lost life

as I look into the still-open

eyes of the victim,

hoping he didn’t suffer too much

and that his mother hasn’t lost

all her young.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

Morning Sacrifice

Making such a racket

that I can’t hear my world-weary head pounding

outside the screen-figured window well before eight on a cool spring morning

(the faulty modification reflecting my mental displacement)

the procession enters

with jackhammer crosses, power drills, circular saws,

and a diesel-powered digger

tank-clanking forward and beeping incessantly back

(Number 412 in your hymnals, “Engines and steel,

loud pounding hammers, sing to the Lord a new song!*),

the acolytes of the waterline priest

shouting their “also with yous”

in some kind of Spanish

as I commune with my chalice of decaf

and biscotto on a saucer,

trying in vain to practice my catechism of Italian,

to read a page of the German liturgy of plurals and pronouns;

my matins bells are the ringing of metals colliding,

and in their pauses a blue-feathered solo chorister

aloft in the branches of a crepe-myrtle

stubbornly reasserts his hymn to nature,

and I think of Mahalia Jackson belting out

“I sing because I’m happy” on scratchy old vinyl**

and wonder if the jay sings in joy, lamentation, or dogged stoicism,

or maybe he is merely announcing the late arrival

of the cat, now waiting impatiently at the door

to be ushered inside to her soft pew,

seeking quiet comfort

but in no wise repentant for her cold-hearted slaughter

of the young bunny earlier in the week,

whereas I, feeling a twinge of guilt for resting here

while the builders toil with their hands,

toy with the beads on my bracelet

and mentally rehearse an “Our Father,”

having forgotten all but the opening line of “Hail, Mary,”

but, like a monkish medieval scribe,

I belabour my manuscript, bleeding ink,

sent out into the world in a different way,

but sent out no less;

and then comes that moment of sweet silence

after the post-eucharistic blessing,

before the bird takes flight

and the builders recess.



*“Earth and All Stars,” words by Herbert Brokering, music by David Johnson, in The Hymnal 1982, “according to the use of The Episcopal Church,” Church Publishing, New York.

**The line is from “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” words by Mrs. C. D. Martin, music by Charles H. Gabriel, as performed by Mahalia Jackon on historical recordings 1946-1954 and reissued on CD in 2004 by Disky Communications.

Link: Jackson singing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” via YouTube.


Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

That Guy You’ve Seen Before

How can it be that you’ve never met,

though you’ve seen each other everywhere–

coffee shops, bars, concerts, and street tests–

noted the other’s clothing style and hair,

found it odd that you would even care?

You probably have mutual friends but don’t know names,

just faces that you see in every crowd;

you keep thinking that you should exchange

greetings or numbers or something, but don’t know how.

Maybe at yoga class your mats will touch,

and you’ll go out for coffee, dutch,

and all the chemistry will be just right,

and you will kiss and then make love all night

and wonder why

you never said hi.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper