And Then?

Beside the squat, square tower

of the red-brick church, up which

the ivy cannot commit to climb,

an oak has begun its autumnal rite,

one quadrant turned to gold–

not yet glory, but the promise of it.


Truth that, yet a falsehood as well,

for the trooping of the colours precedes

the dead march toward the brown rot

that winter will freeze and try

to mask with dirty snow.


Eternal expectation that the compost

will feed new growth in spring,

but still also the persistent doubts–

Who are the elect, who the elector,

what if the plan should fail?


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper




Palm Sunday, 2017

The palm fronds that will become ash,

left long, flap wildly in the wind, or,

folded into browning T’s, lie pinned

against shirt fronts in the usual haphazard

procession behind the red-shrouded

cross borne by a gentleman crucifer

of a certain age, a banner hoisted

by a girl taking flight, the hymn parts

as usual out of sync, out of tune,

nearly inaudible; and, inside, the longest

gospel of the year deflates the mood

to gloom in this season of rapid change,

in weather, in emotions that rise and crash,

azalea blossoms and thunderstorms, new

loves and old anxieties, the death that

precedes life that precedes death,

the eternal question remaining where

the chain will break, the cycle end at last.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper



Misty Windows

On a visit to my parents,

sleeping in what is and isn’t

my adolescent bedroom,

I wake to sunlight filtered

through mist-covered windows.


I know the view of lake and trees

through slatted Venetian blinds

so well I hardly need to see it;

yet the veil of condensation

changes my focus—to

the room itself, and me within it.


This bed is not my bed,

and it faces east, not south,

so perspective too has changed.

But the four walls are the same

once-fashionable green-grained

white paneling, and now, as then,

they contain me only partially,

though I never escape them fully.


The carpet has faded to greenish gold,

but a patch of it once covered by furniture

retains the spring green of its, and my, youth.

A school trophy, a stuffed-toy fox,

a box containing my high school ring

remain where I left them on a shelf,

dustier now, but still intact.


Within a glass-fronted bookcase,

added after the removal

of my piano, rest books and other

memorabilia once treasured,

now kept like artifacts in an historical museum

because no one has thought to remove them.


The same room, transformed,

and I technically the same person,

transmogrified into someone

who barely recognizes himself.


Some changes are merely superficial,

those of age—the beard, the

reduced elasticity of the skin,

the even worse eyesight.


Some grow deep: tangled vines

of sexuality and religion,

intellect and emotion,

ambitions and fears,

aspects of self I lack

the vocabulary to name.


For three or four minutes,

I lie propped on my elbows,

myopic eyes scanning the room,

mind muddling through abstraction,

and then I rise, put my glasses on,

and head downstairs.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper