Commuter Sentence

Driving toward the cathedral in the morning, its spire

a compass needle center-lining the street,

the direction seems inevitable, if not exactly

intentional, a lucid focus in the sleepy haze;

wake and work–it’s something, it’s  what we do

to keep the anxious-making world at bay,

or at least dilute the concentrated panic.

 

But in the traffic-crazy evening rush,

the needle has broken off, and puzzle-pieces

of clouds drift apart like renegade republics

dislodged from their positions on the map.

Sunset’s coming, but I’ll see it in the

rearview mirror while I’m riding east,

back into the chaos, as the credits roll.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

Long Night Moon

After a storm, the drapes of rain are drawn,

but a low ceiling of clouds still obscures

the fullness of the December moon,

making darker the longest night of the year,

with Mercury and Jupiter conjoined,

as stars fall behind the heavy barrier,

and Earth’s upper half leans backward until

it reaches the maximum tilt of winter solstice,

inviting winter in, but also promising

the turn of the wheel toward another spring.

A cold midwinter moon, a long night moon,

at the solstice ritually fired and feasted;

the decorative evergreen branches, cut, must die,

except as symbols, but the trees live on.

Next day, the sun rises late, but rises still,

and blazes bright until its early setting.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Not My Wedding, Not My Royals

On accidentally being in London on the day of the royal wedding

Harry and Megan never consulted me

before scheduling their royal wedding for when

I would be making my very first visit to England,

and my invitation got lost in the Royal Mail–

they might at least have invited me to the reception–

so while they were saying their vows at Windsor Castle,

I was touring London’s parks and squares,

where people congregated to enjoy

a fine spring day in a celebratory mood;

only the monarchists interpreted the lovely weather

as a sign of heaven’s blessing on the couple,

but even republicans were game for a picnic and a pint.

In Green Park and St. James’s, the tourists

strolled about, taking the royal air

despite Her Majesty’s absence from Buckingham Palace,

while locals sat around chatting or walked their dogs.

In Russell Square, twenty-somethings sunned themselves shirtless,

and loners read novels on shady benches

under gnarly plane trees leafy and green,

against one of which a terrier relieved himself.

Two uni students on a coffee date

at the Italian cafe in the corner

spoke of their studies, politics, life, and themselves

over cappuccino ordered so late in the day

that the Italians surely snickered in laughing derision.

At the adjacent table, three English generations–

father, son, and father’s father–drank pints

from tall, thin pilsner glasses, and in

the trio one could see three ages of man.

The young man, blond and bright, drew my eye,

but I pondered his father’s thoughts, and feared

that I share most of the grandpa’s years.

An Asian family talked little but exchanged

glances charged with centuries of meaning,

and two elder gents, one armed with a can,

the other in a driving cap, commented

dryly on perpetual injustice

and chuckled at the antics of a pair of corgis;

I wondered if Virginia Woolf had dogs,

and, if so, how they coped with loss.

Over in Soho pretty boys sat on the lawn,

gossiping and drinking beer from cans;

the mood was about the same, though the denim

was slashed more artfully and the humor a bit more arch:

With the aid of a paper mask, someone had dressed

the statue of Charles the Second in Meghan drag.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

Icon

Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Prize for literature,

but chances are I’ll never have that honor.

Maybe it’s only because I’m a terrible singer.

No, wait, that can’t be the problem.

Maybe it’s because my poems don’t make sense.

No, that can’t be the problem either.

Maybe it’s because I live in Oklahoma,

don’t carry a guitar, and don’t have rock-star hair.

Not to say his lyrics aren’t brilliant, they are,

but it takes more than words to be an icon–

it takes time and place and hair and guitars.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Again

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

The Spirit of Love: A Blank-Verse Sonnet

Two male lovers intertwined in a Celtic know

of fuckery: a mythical amalgam of two heads,

two backs, four arms, four legs, four dangling balls,

and two erect penis, one inside

the other man from behind, pumping away,

filling his yearning void with love’s expanse,

building toward the gradual but still sudden

convulsed transfusion of spirt pure and white

in this all-consuming consummation,

the physical enactment of urges probably resulting

from a chemical imbalance in their brains

that has soften hearts and hardened cocks.

And what will happen after the spirit’s spent?

They’ll say, “Our love came quickly; then it went.”

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

Blue Toenails

Though they won’t prove his most notable feature,

his ripped-up over-decorated jeans

attract my notice first in the mid-American airport,

perhaps because, having just returned from Europe,

I’m more sensitive to our less formal

way of dressing in the USA.—-

 

Turns out that we are taking the same flight,

so I have the opportunity

to take a closer look: earlobes stretched

with big piercings, shaved arms and head

as well, under baseball cap, sleeve tattoo,

interlocking tribal red and black.

In his twenties, well-built, muscular,

with his girlfriend, who’s hot-looking, blond,

but minus his alternative look.

 

I run a gaydar scan, but it comes back

negative, even after, at the

baggage claim, I see that he has painted

his toenails a brilliant sparkling blue.

That’s pretty brave here in Oklahoma,

and I admire him for having the balls

to do his thing, fuck the stereotypes.

 

And yet, despite myself and even though

what the breeders do in bed is not

a topic that I tend to ponder a lot,

I can’t help picturing him on his back,

his legs in the air, and her, equipped

with strap-on, pounding him until he screams.

 

Copyright 2014

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

Divine Abduction

Soaring away from its mountain lair, the eagle

circles broadly, until, gazing down,

a kind of magnetism pulls it toward

a temptation stretched out on the ground,

a naked youth sunning himself beside

the clear, cool brook from which he just emerged

after a refreshing dip.  He lies

reclining, propped on one flexed arm, still beardless,

body smooth, golden, hairless, sun

and trees dappling his teenage form, blond locks

long and thick, still damp, pulled back

from his perfectly sculptured face, eyes like–

no, a simile won’t do them justice–

blue sapphires they are, and deeper than

the stream in which he bathed, lips full and red.

Mid-afternoon at the height of summer,

he sips sweet wine and dozes in the warmth,

awakes feeling horny, a bit aroused,

unknowingly most beautiful of mortals,

one even the godly Zeus cannot resist,

and so the eagle spirals earthward, lands,

and the king of gods takes human form,

dark curly hair and beard, shirtless chest

broad and strong, his cock already hard.

He takes Ganymede by surprise,

flips him over, enters from behind,

rapes the youth and infuses him

with the spirit of divinity.

Afterward, they finish off the wine,

share a smoke, and then the mighty god

resumes the form of the noble bird,

snatches up the delicate Trojan boy,

now the legendary catamite,

with his eagle talons and whisks him away

to Olympus, where the boy,

nude and lovely, serves the gods golden

wine from a golden chalice, and in return

himself becomes a vessel often filled.

Whether he finds joy in his role,

who knows, happiness not being a virtue

of particular importance among the Greeks.

 

Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

A Shelf of My Grandmother’s Books

She had collected the Harvard Classics too,

in their dark green faux-leather covers, but I

have chosen the other set, from a publisher called Black’s,

bound in red cloth embossed with black and gold,

Smythe-sewn spine, small print, and rough-cut pages,

because the editors’ quirky choices–

they sometimes get it right, as with Shakespeare,

Hawthorne and Ibsen, Byron, Dostoevsky–

but Bret Harte?  And who the hell is Haggard?

But the randomness reminds me of her,

who without discrimination read

voraciously–romances, mysteries,

biographies, how-to books, the Bible–

often three books, or four, simultaneously.

Intelligent but from hard times, she’d never

been to college, though she dreamed of it,

wanted to write, took a correspondence

course in writing children’s stories, assignments

picked out on a little Olivetti,

sent in by mail,  and then her anxious wait

for the reader’s letters, her certificate.

She and I sometimes got on, sometimes

not so much; she made the move “back home”

when I was an independent teen,

not wanting all the attention she longed to give me.

Only later did I want to hear

her stories, and by then, it was hard–

her hearing had been badly damaged when she

worked on radios during the war, and a plane

took off unexpectedly when she

had forgotten her ear protection,

and her deafness grew worse and worse with age;

much later, an accident injured her eyes, and then

she become displaced in time, unsure

if she was speaking to me or to my father.

And then I felt remorse for my behavior,

regretful about what I might have learned.

Often I suspect that my love of books

comes from her, so upon her death,

the remembrance that I wanted was

a set of books reflective of the desire

for education that she always harbored.

Despite our conflicts and her flaws, despite

how she become impossible near the end,

I loved her, and I know she helped shape

the career path that I would take.

Perhaps her influence primed me to be a poet.

 

Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper