Reasoned from a Line of Sophocles in Translation

Suppose this business was inspired by gods.

What then can we mere mortals hope to do,

with our lesser nature, foolish sods,

but surrender to their capricious coup?

 

We stand exposed to lightning bolts from heaven,

shot down like bottles lined up on a shelf,

in rapid sequence, five and six and seven,

without means to defend ourselves.

 

Note: From Robert Bagg’s translation of Antigone, published by Harper Perennial.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

 

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God of Style

You wouldn’t have heard the story

because Odin would have disapproved,

Baldr died too soon afterward, and Freyr

was never one to leak secrets to strangers,

but when Freyr was sowing his oats,

before he settled down and married,

he had been struck by the beauty,

incomparable really, of Baldr

in the prime of his youth, and Baldr

on his part, being fresh, eager, and needy,

had found himself drawn to Freyr’s

impressively enormous equipment,

which he offered to polish

and then take inside.

 

So they hooked up and got busy,

comingling their divinity until they

erupted into an orgasm like—

well, there’s really no adequate

simile for the fusion of gods.

Since it happened in Asgard,

where the laws of human biology

didn’t apply and the miraculous

was merely routine, their union,

though short-lived, produced

a child, a son whom they called

Tofar and sent for safety’s sake

to live with Freyr’s compatriots,

the Vanir.

 

In later years, when both Baldr and his

accidental assassin, Hodr, were long dead,

and Freyr was well established in his fertile

heterosexual marriage to Gerdr,

rumours of Baldr’s resurrection

circulated widely, but Freyr knew

the truth, that the reappeared one

was not Baldr as supposed, but

Tofar, who had grown into

the image of his other father.

 

And whereas the same-sex thing

had been little more than a bit of

experimental pleasure for the fathers,

the son was gay for real, with a husband,

a golden ring, and nothing in the closet

but a fabulous wardrobe.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Blood, Skill, and Mercy

While I read, sitting on the porch

on an Indian Summer evening,

fiction in which the boy narrator

retells to his grandmother the story

of a tiger and a rabbit, the ones

from Winnie-the-Pooh, my tomcat

bounds past, mouthing the bunny

he has half-slaughtered, slinging

blood like a red-wine christening,

to remind me that our domestic

animals, no matter how cuddly, remain

killing machines, that life is short

and nature cruel, that sacrifice

allegedly pleases the capricious gods,

and helpless to do otherwise, I

mourn the young rabbit, celebrate

the formidable skill of the hunter,

drink the wine, burn some incense,

and petition divinity for mercy.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper