The Call

In crazy dreams, I drunk-dial my future,

slurring promises in a language I can’t speak,

apologizing in advance for the failings

sure to ruin our relationship eventually,

incautiously exposing my weak underbelly,

the fear of being all alone again,

untouching and untouched.

Waking then in confounded solitude,

I scavenge the sheets for my phone, delete the call from history.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

No Sense in It

The voices that flash before my eyes

smell like duct tape fresh off the roll,

like plastic and glue and mechanical things

that some people could fix, the ones who rise

as if dawn will judge their souls

and finish their coffee before birds sing,

the bitter before the sweet, and the voice

feel bitter, not sweet; the harshest ones

strip the hair from my legs like tape

ripped from it, the agony like the choices

that confound when the sun

drags in the problem of the day–

something that taste’s like the cat’s fresh kill

and rings in my ears like the victim’s blood

still wet on the sacrificial stone.

It’s a dream that strangles my will,

stabs me with splinters of dead wood, dead would,

and keeps me cocooned in bed alone,

washing down the flashing screams

with the vintage smell of fear.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper


The Unslept

In the wind of the night,

a dog howls at the crescent

moon fractioned against

the round shadow

of its former fullness, leaking absinthe

dreams over the restless, fretful earth,

troubling its insomniacs

with wide-eyed consciousness,

as if Lethe flowed around them

but they somehow remained completely dry.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper



Unicornicus Interruptus

A car door slamming

wakes me from my reverie

of unicorns dancing in the rain

to mariachi music

coming from nowhere,

their hooves marking up the ground,

horns briefly touching

when the pattern brings them close,

and then comes that climactic moment,

the passion building

as the solo trumpeter

goes for the high note

and the earth begins to shake . . .

But then someone slams a door

and takes out the unicorns

at the height of terrible beauty.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Dream 517

Cycling on the underside of the superhighway

over a bridge in an unspecified foreign country,

I go into a spin, U-turn suddenly, and find myself

surrounding by thugs with wrenches, who, though

I pedal faster and faster, shouting obscenities,

keep pace with me, lock their wrenches onto my bolts,

loosening nuts mercilessly until my bike flies

apart in the wind and I fall upward into the noise

of an alarm-clock siren. Waking, I throw up my hands

and wail, pondering a universe beyond my control.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

What Would Sigmund Freud Say?

Passing through a glass-beaded curtain,

I enter an old-school porn shop and see

one of my exes, unaged, selecting plaster

figurines in the tradition of Priapus,

with a shirtless, tanned blond boy behind,

learning forward, hands on knees.

I, unnoticed, circle around racks

of vintage vinyl punk records

but then run into them at the earring

display and exchange rather awkward

greetings, interrupted by a friendly-seeming

stranger, who strikes up a conversation,

only to attempt a scam involving a

supposedly starving friend twenty pounds

from death, seeking monetary contributions.

Recognizing the dream state,

I attempt to practice my assertiveness

training, but ineffectually, so that

the ex comes to my rescue by

depositing marbles in the pocket

of the alleged victim.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Aunt Rosie’s Lamps

Some who lived through

the Depression and feared banks

stashed cash in coffee cans

and snuff glasses or buried

a few gold bars in the backyard,

but in my father’s family, my

grandmother and her sisters

hoarded the objects they had lacked

in the harder times of their youth.


With Rosa Lee (Aunt Rosie to me)

it was home furnishings—

sofas and chairs, tables and lamps,

and the larger the scale the better:

like the claw-footed mahogany desk

in the front bedroom that I loved

so much as a child that she said

one day she’d sell me for fifty dollars

if I ever saved that much.


She knew of course it was

an impossible sum for a child,

and said it without thinking to shut me up,

but when as a naïve teenager

who had remembered that promise for years

and actually saved up the fifty bucks,

I gave her a call, she had forgotten

all about her casual offer and said

she couldn’t really sell it.


Besides the desk, she had the massive

dining table acquired somewhere in New Orleans

under circumstances I never quite understood

that eventually filled my parents’ dining room as well,

and, quite atypically for the rural south

in the 1960s, her own bedroom decorated

with red Venetian blinds and a set of lamps

in the shape of sleek black leopards,

one of which, unlike the desk, made its way to me.


But the room that everyone, family

and company alike, most often saw

was the living room with the

commodious sofa and chairs made

of hardwood heavy as concrete, rattan-backed

and upholstered in soft green velvet,

the marble-topped and lyre-sided

mahogany occasional tables

on which rested the lamps:


The grandest ones I had ever seen,

some three feet tall and big enough

a child would have to stretch to reach around,

stacked globes of multicolored glass

on ornate bases trimmed in gold

that would have served as well

the lobby of a starred hotel

but cast their glow instead

on Rosie’s dreams.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper