Resignation

This is our life, our own special hell.

Try as we might, we’re still doomed to failure,

with no goods to bargain, no souls to sell.

 

It’s all vanity; trouble’s stickier than blood.

Forget your ambitions; you might as well sail your

little paper boats in puddles of mud.

 

I’m not pessimistic, just being real;

our wills are constrained like pent-up jailbirds,

so it’s easier to deal if you forget how to feel.

 

Armour up like a knight, but stay in the castle.

It’s dangerous out there on quests for the grail; turn

back now to safety, it’s not worth the hassle.

 

Limit to the back yard your adventurous forays,

because heroes are heroes only in stories.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

Happy Yak

I was so surprised to find the yak in the kitchen at 3 a.m.,

especially at this altitude in the middle of summer,

wearing a kilt, rummaging through the fridge

in search of salad greens, and drinking my last beer,

that I was initially speechless, but I eventually

collected myself enough to ask, “Wouldn’t you

be happier at a higher elevation in a significantly

colder climate?” But he only grunted, waved

away my question with a cloven hoof, and

said, “You can research habitats on the internet,

but that doesn’t make you an expert on happiness.”

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Circle

Sometimes you want to stomp

on the circle of the cycle

of this whole crazy circus

and squish it into something

flatter, with sides and angles

and corners you can knock

your knees on and get

your bearings even if hurts,

but since there’s no way

to get yourself on top,

you just pump in more air

and keep rolling around again.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Sunshine

My student introduced herself as Sunshine

and wrote in her journal that she had never

lost a friend or family member to death

and was engaged to marry the first and only

boy that she had ever dated, and that,

unlike her classmates, she couldn’t write

about her troubles because she had never

really had any.

 

Reading her observations,

I sat for a moment stunned, wondering

whether to celebrate her fortune or mourn

her lack of life experience, to wish

for her cocoon to hold itself intact or to fear

what might happen when it breaks open

and she discovers that even a butterfly

must take wing into a world of risk.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Half There or Half Here?

Halfway to nowhere,

moving slowly toward stasis–

enlightened or stuck?

 

Would Buddha in dilemma

disappear the muddy road?

 

Does the way of the crossways

that my crossed way crosses weigh

me down as I cross myself,

or cut across to open

new ways forward out of time?

 

Is the present moment free

of past regrets and future

reincarnations,

or is it the product of

their sordid union?

 

In my tracks I stop

and try to track my stops,

my lurches forward,

and my lapses back.

 

The end is near,

so very near,

the beginning

that progress seems

like only not going

too far backward

all at once.

 

Vive la holding steady,

tracing circles

in the gravel

of my zen garden

to dull the knife.

 

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