Heat

When the heat arrives, around half-past July,

time shifts into a different dimension:

Not-a-morning-persons sip coffee on front steps

in their underwear at dawn; restless dogs drag

their lagging humans along the streets on midnight walks;

high noon drops the dead weight of silent stillness

over thirsty lawns toasted crisp and brown,

petunias and impatiens limp and yellow,

wilted over their funereal pots, a calico cat

melting in the meager shade of a sad azalea,

her breath her only motion. A dry wind rises,

swirling dust and rustling the crepe-myrtle branches,

but it brings no comfort, no relief from the sun god

relentlessly blessing his subjects.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Grading on Sunday

September’s still hot,

even in early morning,

but the sun feels good

on muscles sore from yoga

as I drink coffee and grade

papers from last week,

slow and groggy on the porch,

as a dry breeze stirs

crepe-myrtle branches

hung heavy with bloom,

and mark the peaceful stillness

of the napping cat

stretched out in the small shadow

cast by snapdragons

and wonder if she

can simply think of nothing,

for my thoughts run everywhere,

like monkey-children

on a holiday from school,

and as their play escalates,

my work shifts to slow motion

in the Sunday warmth.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

Heat

Heat

 

The first thing happens like this:

I’m working in the yard

when a stranger walking down the street

stops to ask if he can get a drink

from my garden hose.

I ask him to wait

and go inside (locking

the door behind me–I’m

kind, not stupid) to

fetch him some iced water

in a disposable plastic cup.

He gratefully accepts

the drink he seems to really need

and continues walking

wherever he’s walking to.

It’s all good, but a little weird,

and a sign of things to come.

 

Later, I’m riding my bike

when a woman in a van sitting

in the middle of the street beckons.

I stop, remove an earbud;

she says she’s honking to get

her son to to come out of the house,

but he’s not hearing.  Will I

go to the door and knock? She

can’t get out because her dog

would run away, and by the way,

she’s in a wheelchair.  So I go and bang

on the front door, then the side door,

then the back door, and get absolutely

no response.  That’s all that

I can do. As I pedal off,

she pulls back into the driveway

and leans hard on the horn.

 

I have errands to run, and

traffic’s crazy: people texting,

driving blind; driving twenty-five

and straddling the lane divider–

surely not drunk at ten a.m.?–

gliding past stop signs, omitting signals.

Some dude passes me on the right

doing forty-five in a thirty-five,

then darts back in without a signal

and cuts me off, nearly clipping

both me and the car in the other lane.

I honk and finger my displeasure;

despite his former hurry, he takes time

to stop and return the gesture after

turning off on a side street.

 

I’m passing a house in the neighborhood

and see some dude pacing angrily in the yard.

Over my music, with the windows closed

and A/C cranked, I hear him yelling,

loudly and repeatedly, “I hate you

fucking sorry-ass people,” though

I see no one else around.

 

Lunch at my favorite cafe,

but things are a little off.

It closed early yesterday for

improvements to the kitchen;

they’re hiring for all positions

(though most of the old staff’s

staying on as well); and

there’s a bit of chaos. The salad

is good but slightly different,

my coffee never arrives.

When I re-order, the iced one’s

tasty but not really cold;

a manager’s walking around

trying to figure out

who ordered an unclaimed sandwich.

 

At the park, the ducks just

sit still in a shady spot.

Back home, my cat goes

out at nine, melts into the lawn.

All day, everyone’s been on edge,

the animals restless too,

and now bugs everywhere.

At ten p.m., it’s still ninety-three

degrees, humid, with not much wind;

there’s lightning in the clouds,

but so far no rain. Sitting on the porch,

I hear siren after siren,

and now the weather radio’s

blaring into action every couple of minutes.

Against my better judgment,

I pour another glass of wine.

If the heat doesn’t break tonight,

I’ll be afraid to face tomorrow.

 

Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper