Morning Music

The cool night seeps in through the window,

and just before dawn, the soft music of a sad ballad

drifts into my gradually returning consciousness,

in a moment of gentle beauty

before the city returns to day,

the hotel with running showers and flushing toilets and clanking dishes,

the street with can brakes and car horns

and tienda grills sliding up,

and though I admit the room was stuffy in the afternoon,

I would have missed so much

in a room with sealed windows

and air-conditioning–

I would have missed the music.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Templo de San Felipe Neri

san felipe cdmx.jpg

It first appeared in noonday sun,

its roof tiles brightened to near invisibility

deep shadows contrasting the angles.

In the soft haze of morning,
the detailed edges of tiles and bricks
and stones marked them out
as individual entities, held together
by will and willingness
as well as mortar.

Rain made the tiles shine again,
as perhaps they did when laid,
and intensified the color of the bricks,
made the building seem almost alive.

At night only the outline shows,
the structure’s looming mass
almost monstrous in the dark,
something dark itself, the shadow
of its beauty brooding over its power.

The visions all come filtered through
a chicken-wired ventilation shaft,
which does not so much obstruct the view
as protect it from unwarranted intimacy.

But the image that will linger
is the scene’s perception in reverse,
its reflection in the mirror
over the hotel-room desk,
when I too become displaced
in time and space, when flawed memory
and these inadequate words
will distort the backward reflection
of an unstable subject
behind a screen of wire.

Copyright 2016
T. Allen Culpepper

Rain Against Glass

torre rain.jpg

Drops of rain slide down
the plate-glass observation windows
of the Torre Latinoamericana,
their there-and-gone movements
pocking the panoramic view
like light blips on a film screen;
and there’s plenty of action down there,
the pink taxis and green buses
jamming the thoroughfares,
the pedestrians caught out
reaching for umbrellas
if they’ve planned ahead,
or, if not, jogging a few steps
before they realize the futility
and just enjoy the coolness
of the shower, unless they’re
close enough to take cover
in cafes, where the employees
find themselves suddenly
overwhelmed with customers;
and the volcanoes in the distance,
keep simmering like the inhabitants
of the city they have guarded
since the era of the Aztecs
and their thirsty gods.

Copyright 2016
T. Allen Culpepper

Cafe de Tacuba

Cafe de Tacuba

Smiling dark-suited young men
congregate around the elaborate
lectern, eyeing the guests
to determine–or not–their
appropriate places in this
rarified gustatory paradise,
as white-uniformed meseras,
resembling nurses from the 1950s,
flit about under the arches,
the oversized ribbons in their hair
like the wings of earthly angels
as they serve the antojitos
and then whisk the plates away.
And the subjects of the portraits
that adorn every wall gloat
over their success in securing
their permanent regular tables.

Copyright 2016
T. Allen Culpepper