Curve Ball

From the Olympian mound, the pitcher-god threw us a curve,

a ball of pandememic-virus starter ringed with a spiky cornona,

designed to explode and multiply at baseball time,

sending mortals in search of sanitizer, masks, and rolls of paper,

forcing even the most social—those Italians!—to keep their distance,

and granting the wishes of all who ever said “leave me alone.”

 

People used to playing the game, now forced to watch at home alone,

listen to the experts explaining the urgency of flattening the curve,

of washing their hands fifty times a day and maintaining social distance,

while wondering if they too will become infected with corona

and pondering how best to manufacture their own paper–

just a question of material and method, since they have plenty of time.

 

Exactly what are space and time? Such questions arise when there’s time

and space to ponder them because everything’s so quiet, and we are so alone,

sheltering at home and hoarding milk, bread, and toilet paper,

hoping that survival skills are graded on a favorable curve,

thinking that for patience we each deserve a golden corona,

and how contagion travels so quickly such a distance.

 

Not going to work or school seems not so bad, but how to distance

yourself from your family and friends all the time?

So can it be that bad, so much worse than other viruses, this corona?

Because it turns out that hard as adulting is, alone-

ing is that much harder, with an anxious-making learning curve.

Can it really be as deadly as they tell us in the online papers?

 

Teachers and students distracted—must they still write, still mark those papers

in times when the apocalypse seems quite real and not too distant?

Employees and business owners trying to chart how their trajectory will curve,

what good without income is a mandate for taking down time?

Who knows how all this will end? The pitcher-god alone,

watching the ball from atop his mountain’s high corona.

 

So many definitions—aureole, crown, halo, ring—for this corona,

but the thing itself is far more intense than words on paper,

the way it brings people down with sickness, death, facing fear alone.

Caution is clearly required, but can human will alone enforce the distance

between our life and all the threats to its existence? Only time

will tell, one supposes, which way the spinning viral ball will curve.

 

All we can do is try to keep distance between ourselves and this new corona,

and if it comes our time, we won’t be saved by masks or toilet paper;

we dream we grip the bat to swing at the curve, but we wake like we die, alone.

 

Copyright 2020

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

 

 

Fate

Walking her little yappy dog

on the trail through the mountain pasture,

the tourist woman would have been trampled by cattle

spooked and protective of their young

if she, as well as several of the cows and all of the hundred-odd passengers and crew,

had not been killed by the defectively engineered passenger jet crashing just there and then.

The dog escaped unharmed and ran off into a nearby wood, where, at dusk, with surprising boldness, it took up company with a passing pack of wolves.

So, in a sense, the story ended well, just not for the woman, or the people on the plane, or the sacrificial cows.

Cooyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

Yes, the Fall, But Oh That Rise! Icarus Reconsidered

In the end our rebel dies,

but what a meteoric rise!

Better to fall from a flaming star

than never to soar so high and far.

Imagine the youth’s incredible rush:

Drugs, sex, and rock in one great gush!

And the thrill of that still in his eyes

as he drops from the skies.

The officers call in one fatality,

but death gives him immortality.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

The Skeleton Dance

Death crawls behind my eyes

like darkness seeping from the end

of the tunnel that drains the light

of day away at dusk and blackens

it for night, pulling down the sun

and sucking its stellar siblings into airless

voids that snuff out their lambent fires;

but then my dilating pupils draw in

the rising moon that makes death’s

frail bones glow white, its bleached teeth

grinning from cheekbone to cheekbone

as it resurrects itself, tilts back its skull,

and rattles its feet into the dance.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

A Minion of Death Serves Breakfast at the Wakeup Hotel

waiter.jpg

Too anorexic to work as a fashion model

(with translucent skin whiter than the ghost

of porcelain drawn tight over his shaved

skull, black apron wrapped like a shroud

around his skeletal frame, eyes set deep

as if peering from a cave, mouth set

in a show of perpetual doom) he has taken

a job as a hotel waiter, moving around

the restaurant with zombie-like efficiency;

he performs his duties wordlessly, with

neither smile nor nod, replenishing the fruits

that nourish the living, with the secret

knowledge that death will take them soon

and he will feast finally on brains.

 

Copyright 2017

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

 

 

Obituary

For L. S. 

 

When the person who died was only semi-famous,

the lesser known member of the band and not

the center ring of a paparazzi circus, you can’t

help wondering about the unrevealed details.

A relative belatedly announces the death, says

the deceased was a private person, lived abroad.

But who still loved him in the recent years,

who will miss him at the pub or coffeehouse,

who will take the dog?

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper