Dragon Love

When fiery dragons fuck,

do they always get burned,

or does their ecstasy

take wing, fly off the scales,

so that the only heat

they feel comes from passion,

their flaming hearts steeling

mere skin against hot harm,

infernal emotions

dousing conflagration?


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Mixing Metaphors

Birdsong at four, after restless sleep,

the world seeping back into my consciousness,

I think first with typical human egotism,

but it’s the other way around, isn’t it,

the world drawing me back into itself,

one more pinch of flour beaten into the batter,

another drop of tint diffused into the base paint

until it’s indistinguishable if not unseen,

though even in dissolution my bones will feel the shaking,

even if my still-groggy brain can’t grasp

what the birds are stirring up.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

A Song for My Grandfather

A cappella in the Nonconformist sense

as well as unaccompanied,

the mostly elderly congregants

make the Sacred Harp sing

(so few of them now, but

you can find them, like everything,

on the Internet),

its notes shaping their harmony,

their concentrated voices

resonating in some old pine-wood church,

a few keeping time

with a raised and lowered arm,

believing the words,

but breathing the music,

and I think of my grandfather,

not an educated man,

but one who loved to go to “singings,”

who had gone to the singing schools

that rural churches used to sponsor,

knew how to sing his part,

a way to take his rest from life’s work,

of farming, driving trucks, and building caskets,

and when I hold his hymnal from the 1940s,

its blue cloth cover faded but intact,

like my memories of him,

I imagine it in his stronger hands,

him all dressed up in  “spoaty”*

clothes and singing loud.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper


*His pronunciation of “sporty.”

Note: The poem is mostly true, but I have invented a few details where memory has failed or in the case of events before my time.







Perched in the tree,

he’s a subtle marvel

in his morning coat

of blue and grey,

camouflaged among the leaves

by his likeness to the patches

of sky visible between them;

but reticent only

in resting appearance,

he squawks his displeasure

at the idling cat

he dives to peck:



Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper