Some nights the old fears come back,

rustling around the door as dusk

bleeds light from the sky and then

making houseguests of themselves,

hogging the pillows, drinking up the wine,

demanding too much attention, but here

they are, and like forgotten cousins

or friends from lives you thought had died,

they must be entertained, and so

you dance with them and listen to

their talk and take a certain comfort

in their familiar spirits, but still

you wish they’d go and leave you to

the loneliness they represent.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Panic Attack

Panic swoops down and preys on him:

a fearsome, famished raptor

ripping apart his flesh

with razor-claws,

digging in through muscle

to devour the organ meats,

savoring his heart and brain.

This is the point at which

the nightmare is supposed to end,

but he’s been wide awake

from the beginning,

and the scenario’s stuck

in a replaying loop.

When he tries to tell others

how it works,

they always advise,

“It’s OK, calm down, it’s

only in your head.”

But that is where he lives.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

A View from Bed on a Saturday Morning in Early Spring

The green and white urge themselves together

at divergent angles in the corner,

the lines of demarcation fuzzy, blurred

by myopic eyes into abstraction,

as the head, its allergic ache

compounded by the stresses of the week,

too little sleep and too much Spanish wine,

tries to clear itself, meditate,

first on nothing, then on respiration,

then, inevitably, on the intruding to-do list–

grading and bills and cleaning and shopping and laundry,

oh, and making time for exercise–

trying to organize  itself for the day,

filing functions, tasks into mental drawers

half-shut, half-open, overflowing with bulging

recycled folders disordered and mislabeled,

like a basket of socks arranged by a cat.

Sunlight filters in through dust, highlights

piles of books and clothes, a trail of dirty

glasses and coffee cups. When head tries

not to think, it does, but when it tries

to concentrate on a single thought,

the green and white race together, collide.



Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Sunday Evening

Ten on Sunday evening, a lonely time,

sitting on the porch steps as the night

begins to cool, though there’s no wind,

unusual for Oklahoma, nearly perfect calm.

Cat sacked out on the walkway rolls

over onto her back in total relaxation,

stretches methodically, one leg at a time.

Stars fleck the sky, visible tonight despite

the illumination of houses, city streets.

It has been a good day, but solitary;

the solitude agreeable at first, but

now grown tiresome at day’s end,

when I most crave the comfort of touch.

There comes a sadness that would be

beautiful in literary narration, but

whose beauty’s less evident from

inside the experience itself.  It’s

that reflective time between the

weekend and the week when old

mistakes return like ghosts and

new anxieties take hold like demons.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Attention Deficit

W. H. Auden christened the Age of Anxiety,

and many have spoken of the age of information,

but now it seems we’ve entered the age of attention-

deficit disorders: we browse, we skim, we surf

the Web, but we can’t keep our minds on anything for longer

than five or ten–what we were talking about?–minutes.

We know about everything, but we don’t actually

know anything, not deeply, at a level below the surface.

We wolf down information but don’t digest it;

we think we are thinking, but we do not seriously ponder

the meaning, the significance, the implications, for us,

for others, for the world that all of us inhabit.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper