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

Possum Portrait

A reluctant subject, anxious of pausing

her foraging for some tasty insects to snack on,

a female Virginia opossum sniffs once

to proof the absence of threat, and then

sits up in the front yard, her ghost-white

face glowing in the tree-filtered lamplight

seeping weakly into the pre-dawn darkness,

the same face that peered from Algonquin woods,

the same black eyes that scientists say

watched dinosaurs live and die, that

saw past the dinosaurs and Algonquins,

past the settlers and builders of cities.

 

Although her kind have suffered their losses,

to coyotes and dogs, to redneck hunters

with shotguns, to the noisy machines

hurtling with ungodly speed down streets

and highways; the species has survived,

virtually unchanged, and death to her

is only a game that she has often played

and so far won. She might climb a tree

to survey her options, might enjoy

a starlight swim if the opportunity

presents itself, but she will not run away

from death; she will walk, slowly,

at her own pace, taking another

solitary journey, and if death chooses

to follow her, that is the business of death,

not of possums, to whom death is only

a trick of last resort that sometimes

works and sometimes doesn’t.

 

My particular possum, very much alive

and grown tired of posing, raises

a four-finger wave, idly licks her palm,

and ambles off to finish her scavenging and find

some dark, safe place to sleep the day away.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper