Stream of Unconciousness

Grandpa livestreams Grandma to split smitherscreens,

dispersing her particularly across the cyberverse,

as if he could convert her to a cartoon meme

in lieu of writing sonnets in iambic pentameteors.

 

Of course, he didn’t mean to do it; he’s merely

a few arcades behind with his technology;

though his aspiration for her’s meant sincerely,

his actions might eventfully require an apogee.

 

But it’s dutiful he’ll dismember; these daze

his mind’s not quite as Sherpa as it once was,

and sometimes it travels in thyme and spaces,

or skips out on its office to take long lunches.

 

Grandma, meanwhile, is blessfully unaware,

humming showrooms while she wishes her hair.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

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Rain Memory

Digging out the rain gear for an uncharacteristically wet week in Tulsa

brings back a vision of my undergraduate days in another T-town,

Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where rainy days were more routine than

exception, splashing through puddles from dorm to biology class

in a mass of oxford shirts and khaki, plastic slickers and duck boots.

Carless, I walked everywhere, paying little mind to the weather,

except for choosing the rainy days to show up for all my classes

so I could skip and lounge beside the duck pond on the sunny ones.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

How Memory Works

I was eating fish and chips

in a not-very-Irish pub

after casting my ballot

against the apocalypse.

 

The first sip of beer sent

me time-traveling back to

a college-town dive bar

at the dawn of the age

of the Material Girl,

and a passing server

rang a bell that conjured

the specter of a friend

with whom I had an

accidental falling-out

over the embarrassment

of our mutual addictions:

men and drink and that

certain Southern sense

of slow decay toward

inevitable doom that

haunts the twisted halls

of minds that can never

make the thinking stop.

 

I don’t know which way

she went—the server,

my friend, or Memory

herself—or what drew

us together and pulled

us apart, or what

anything means.

 

So I just finished

my fish and chips,

and someone brought

me the check.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

 

 

 

In the Bag

My hand, stiffer and scalier than on earlier expeditions,

reaches into the cavernous interior of my book bag

like an old snake, bound up in its own tired skin,

slinking through a hole into its den underground,

but finding it in disarray, as if disturbed by intruders,

bent on deceit rather than theft, who left the furnishings

behind, taking away only the comfort of familiarity,

of the sure knowledge of where things lie and who

placed them there, slithering serpentine among

the colored folders meant to keep the papers organized,

searching them for—what was it, the syllabus, an graded

essay for a student previously absent, one of my many

misplaced lists and books, papers and pens and markers?

My looking is taking too long; some eyes are looking up

from phones, someone has asked a question that I

haven’t quite grasped. My mind has wandered to that time

in fourth grade when I worked so far ahead but then

couldn’t find my assignments and had what I know now

was one of my earliest panic attacks, but back here

in today’s class, students are offering excuses, asking for

favors, reporting problems, and, my brain nearly

exploding on its re-entry into  present time, which is now

future time because it kept going while my mind

bogged down in the mud of distant memory and lost

its focus on the short-term—short-term, school term,

syllabus, calendar, what was the question? The snake

bares its fangs but loses focus on its strike so that the prey escapes,

and I withdraw my hand from the bag, empty, still needy,

and as the hungry unfed snake crawls back into the light

to warm its chilly blood, I rest my arm on the podium

and gaze out into the eyes of my students and wonder

what they have remembered, what they have forgotten,

what dreams they have tried to prey on and seen escape,

what uneasiness they feel crawling out of their comfort

zones, if their thoughts, like mine, wander and rebel,

mutiny against them like drunken sailors aroused against

an incompetent captain too weak to maintain order.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Sprinklers

At a conference with some students I’m advising,

the day’s last session ending, I’m taking

a late-evening walk across the campus

that we’re visiting, strolling around its

little pond and central buildings,

having been stuck inside all day

and feeling just a little claustrophobic.

The evening’s cool and pleasant

after a day unseasonably warm,

and the sprinklers have come on,

misting the air and wetting the sidewalks,

and suddenly I’m transported backward

thirty years in time to my own alma mater,

pacing the quadrangle late at night

when I’m lonely and can’t sleep,

or stumbling home, with or without my mates,

after a night out at one of the bars

along the strip. The memory has come

to me unexpected, and I’m not sure

if it’s a happy one or sad.

 

Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper