Secret Rivers

At the conflux of secret rivers,

lie portals sacred and mystical,

where bones rise with the spirits—

unseen, but sometimes heard, jangling and moaning;

and felt, their magnetic motion always felt, as the waters

flow under our feet, through our consciousness, over our souls.

Hidden, these rivers, concealed,

sometimes restricted, but never contained, never completely contained.

The fisher king angles among them, the sailor drowns

where they deepen and whirl without warning.

At the conflux of secret rivers,

the old gods, pagan but wise, demand

the old rituals, the sacrifice of blood that appeases

their lustful, capricious appetites,

troubling, but necessary, always necessary

for firing human passion.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

 

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The Gardenia Blooms and Fades

The photographs don’t lie;

southern beauty in perpetual decline.

The gardenia blooms;

its blossoms scent the air,

but then the whiteness of its petals browns,

and they drop,

decay in the dirt.

 

Likewise, the columns of the mansions stand,

but their white paint peels, houses without lands.

The gardenia blooms;

its blossoms scent the air,

but then the whiteness of its petals browns,

and they drop,

decay in the dirt.

 

There was a land, a mythic one,

but the legends ignore the damages done.

The gardenia blooms;

its blossoms scent the air,

but then the whiteness of its petals browns,

and they drop,

decay in the dirt.

 

Honeysuckle, wisteria, and sweet shrub wait

on the queen of summer in regal state.

The gardenia blooms;

its blossoms scent the air,

but then the whiteness of its petals browns,

and they drop,

decay in the dirt.

 

Sunhats and prom gowns, cutoffs and tuxes,

all the social rituals in redux.

The gardenia blooms;

its blossoms scent the air,

but then the whiteness of its petals browns,

and they drop,

decay in the dirt.

 

The dreams are mostly in retrospect,

futures mired in past regrets.

The gardenia blooms;

its blossoms scent the air,

but then the whiteness of its petals browns,

and they drop,

decay in the dirt.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

Vancouver

The natural beauty reigns, of charms the queen,

in this western city alive and teeming,

           between the mountains and the sea.

The beauty queen’s Crown rises along with Seymour,

the route to the royal court across the Lion’s Gate beams,

           between the mountains and the sea.

Staking its claim over the Harbour, like that opera house down under,

Canada Place spreads its white and sail-like wings,

           between the mountains and the sea.

Burrard vistas from the winding seawall circling Stanley Park,

with its Lost Lagoon, and English Bay sunsets from the beach,

           between the mountains and the sea.

Ferry rides over blue waters to Granville and Victoria islands;

on foot or bike or boat, its sights gleam, its air so clean,

           between the mountains and the sea.

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper 

You Say Gazelle, I Say Ghazal

Like the graceful leap of the wild gazelle,

the thoughts bound high that the stanzas tell in this ghazal.

 

Like the ambitions of Prometheus reaching for fire,

the poet aims his lofty goal to assail in this ghazal.

 

Like the prophets and philosophers of days long past,

the poet calls for revolution but prepares to fail in this ghazal.

 

Like the epics of those legendary ancient bards,

the poem employs figures, each word a sail in this ghazal.

 

If writing poetry is pretentious, even dangerous,

then poems about poetry are the unholy grail—hence this ghazal.

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

Pink Azaleas

The pink azaleas fade the fastest,

their festive petals turning a nasty brown.

All year they’ve waited for their glory moment,

the sudden burst of bloom that makes them

special among the other shrubs,

but their faces once revealed begin to crumple

and decay, so that within in a week

they’re like aging drag queens

holding out for one last show

before saying goodbye to the stage.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

 

Nôtre-Dame des flammes

Even the holy water of the Seine,

the re-baptism by fire-brigade hoses,

could not prevent Our Lady’s

close encounter with the hellish flames

sent to test her fortitude and mock

her claims on eternal existence,

and yet, despite her scorched tresses,

her toppled aspirational crown,

the burning in her mediaeval gut,

her heat-forged spirit endures,

hard as the stone of her towers

still raised Orans-style toward heaven,

signaling the path that her body,

like her spirit, will ascend

at resurrection.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper