Palm Sunday, 2017

The palm fronds that will become ash,

left long, flap wildly in the wind, or,

folded into browning T’s, lie pinned

against shirt fronts in the usual haphazard

procession behind the red-shrouded

cross borne by a gentleman crucifer

of a certain age, a banner hoisted

by a girl taking flight, the hymn parts

as usual out of sync, out of tune,

nearly inaudible; and, inside, the longest

gospel of the year deflates the mood

to gloom in this season of rapid change,

in weather, in emotions that rise and crash,

azalea blossoms and thunderstorms, new

loves and old anxieties, the death that

precedes life that precedes death,

the eternal question remaining where

the chain will break, the cycle end at last.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper




Your crocodile tears splash salty guilt

into the ragged gashes your inconstant

and insatiable so-called love has

already slashed into my psyche,

but this time I will keep my eyes wide

and my ears open to recognize

the lies the deposed king of hearts,

of broken hearts—that’s your part

in this tired play—has composed

to push me away while chaining me

close, because this time I’m gone,

out of the game, away, as far away

as I can go. They said hearts,

and so you claimed, but now I look

inside and call what I see a spade.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper


Still Life with Trains, Tequila, and Cowboy Boots

For Oklahoma Poets Laureate Benjamin Myers, Nathan Brown, and Jeanetta Calhoun Mish


Except maybe not the trains,

because they’ve all disappeared

into the mythical West.


And maybe just the tequila bottle,

because the liquor apparently evaporated

while I was mourning the trains.


And maybe just one of the cowboy boots,

because the dog chewed up the other one,

and it’s impossible to fill two these days anyway.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper




At four they start their chorus, after a bit of a tune-up,

in the spring of the many birds—I don’t know when

I’ve seen such numbers, from bite-sized chickadees

to the fattest robins on record, showy cardinals

to mean-spirited jays. Whether their rousing strains

constitute a melodious symphony or merely a

cacophonous racket remains a question for debate—

a delight for the early riser but hardly conducive

to an open-windowed lie-in on a Saturday morning.

They flit about the garden and the branches of the

as yet unbloomed crepe myrtle shading my bedroom,

their arias invading my dreams and goading the cats

to sharpen their claws for a pre-dawn hunt.

The early ones create the earworms, their agents

and producers probably taking a generous cut.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper