The Bluejay of Fear

The jay was beautiful once, in his feathered garb of regal blue,

but now he’s only dead, gone the way of all flesh and fowl,

and though I’m not the assassin–the cat has brought him in,

as nature-programmed hunters do–yet still I feel the guilt

for this handsome creature unjustly slain. So runs the elegy

I’m composing in my head as I pick up a couple of feathers

dropped, and the cat, having grown bored with the game,

leaves the scene.

But then I realize the bird remains alive,

perched on the kitchen curtain-rod, first thinking he’s badly hurt,

de-winged, unable to flay and stuck in purgatory,

but when I approach, he takes flight, heading every which way

but out; with doors and windows open wide, the bird flies

into the wall, and I marvel at the lack of brains that

often accompanies unearned beauty.

I cannot catch him,

or shoot him, or guide him; the attempt goes on for hours,

until, like Poe’s raven or the mariner’s albatross, his presence

dooms me to the memory of regret. Having provoked me

into agitation, he settles and grows quiet, spends the night

on his perch, head tucked under wing, in the way of birds,

as I toss in troubled dream state, and not until the next

midmorning, when the cat’s interest returns, does my

blue-winged demon depart with a raucous squawk

by the obvious escape right previously unseen.

He’ll have

a story to tell his avian cronies of his traumatic, near-death

experience, and I’ll be haunted by his image, with half-open

beak and the same stupid, black-eyed terror that I

sometimes feel myself.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

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First Evening of September

On the front porch on a breezy evening

when the weather’s still summer but the mood is fall:

the kids on their bikes raucous and wild,

the light of a jetliner like Venus in motion,

someone cruising by in a convertible couple,

cats chasing insects, imaginary and real,

a neighbor’s flag flying upside-down,

create-myrtle branches gently swaying,

Italian music and a glass of red wine.

The only thing missing’s someone to share it.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Birdsong

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

Blood, Skill, and Mercy

While I read, sitting on the porch

on an Indian Summer evening,

fiction in which the boy narrator

retells to his grandmother the story

of a tiger and a rabbit, the ones

from Winnie-the-Pooh, my tomcat

bounds past, mouthing the bunny

he has half-slaughtered, slinging

blood like a red-wine christening,

to remind me that our domestic

animals, no matter how cuddly, remain

killing machines, that life is short

and nature cruel, that sacrifice

allegedly pleases the capricious gods,

and helpless to do otherwise, I

mourn the young rabbit, celebrate

the formidable skill of the hunter,

drink the wine, burn some incense,

and petition divinity for mercy.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

 

Another Aubade

When it’s 5 a.m. but you’re wide awake

on a summer day when there’s no need

for early rising, no hurry to get moving,

what can you do really but sit on the porch

in your underwear, drinking black coffee in the dark,

watching cats prowl the yards and mourning

the loss of stars as the sky begins to brighten

slightly and a gentle wind breaks the stillness,

stirring the uppermost branch of the hackberries,

ruffling the feathers of the early birds

anticipating the dawn in that long, lonely

moment just before it that brings to mind

departed lovers and forgotten dreams;

but the birds sing reassuringly

as the first light reveals the first blossoms

on a late-blooming crepe myrtle,

and the coffee is good and strong.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper