Barking Time

On Wednesdays at noon,

if the weather is good,

they test the tornado sirens,

and the dogs on the street behind me

join in, turning their howls

to harmonize, but the test

blasts through a solid minute,

longer than the dogs can

hold out without a breath,

and, one by one, their voices

drop our of the chorus;

but the siren, mechanical, controlled,

trails to silence when its time is up,

while the dogs, being dogs,

will still have their day.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper



At home alone at night,

a drink sounds good,

a chat with a friend online,

but before you know it,

the bottle’s empty,

you’ve talked too much.

The morning after, it’s just you,

quiet from the headache, sad.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper




After the character from Woolf


That one time in the trenches

when the fear and loneliness had been

too much, when the panic had come

on him, Evans had taken his hand,

pulled him close, and embraced him,

wrapping strong arms and legs

tightly around him–and then came

the kiss, erotic, yes, but more than that,

the exchange of the life-force,

an infusion of warming breath.

For Evans it had been a one-off,

a gesture of comfort extended

to a blood-brother in time of distress;

but for Septimus, though he dared not

hope for the act’s repetition,

it was the moment that defined

his life, the glorious high that,

having once been reached,

left an aching void, the hunger

of addiction that, no matter how

richly fed, could never be

satisfied again.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper



For Orris, and some others


Half past four in November,

sun not yet sunk, but dropping fast;

the light weakens and a certain

sadness falls–not unkindly,

but with memories bittersweet

of love and loss and chances often

imagined but never really taken:

the ones you never dared to love,

the truths you were afraid to speak,

the journeys that you couldn’t take,

the touch withheld that, given, might

have sparked the flame that would have burned

through all that protective armor

that girds your heart and holds it captive,

the times that your no meant yes, but you waited

too long to clarify and missed your chance.

Well, anyway, the light–it turns

golden, dims, and slowly fades.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Stream of Unconciousness

Grandpa livestreams Grandma to split smitherscreens,

dispersing her particularly across the cyberverse,

as if he could convert her to a cartoon meme

in lieu of writing sonnets in iambic pentameteors.


Of course, he didn’t mean to do it; he’s merely

a few arcades behind with his technology;

though his aspiration for her’s meant sincerely,

his actions might eventfully require an apogee.


But it’s dutiful he’ll dismember; these daze

his mind’s not quite as Sherpa as it once was,

and sometimes it travels in thyme and spaces,

or skips out on its office to take long lunches.


Grandma, meanwhile, is blessfully unaware,

humming showrooms while she wishes her hair.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper