Transfiguration

At home, sequestered in his room,

ears headphoned, eyes fixed on

his laptop computer screen; in his

classes at the community college,

getting his basics out of the way;

at work, waiting tables for tips—

in so much of life, he’s merely

human, if even that–but in the gay

club after hours, when the DJ cranks

the music, a little drunk, a little high,

he sheds his mortality along with

his shirt and dances his way

through the glittering lights

into the realm of gods.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

 

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Rain Dance

Outside, distant thunder applauds the performance

of  rain dancing on the pavement strewn with magenta vinca blossoms.

In here, the clock, tripped up by a power blip during the night,

flashes a time that is not now, and therefore, by my groggy-headed logic,

this moment is timeless and must be savored,

so I snuggle into my nest of pillows for a Sunday-morning lie-in,

happy that the sheets on now are the soft jersey ones,

glad that I started the dishwasher, its hum-swoosh-and rattle cycle

oddly comforting–domestic, mundane, familiar.

The Radio One presenter starts every sentence with “Basi’ly”

and plays a Sam Smith ballad that’s sad in a good way,

especially when his voice climbs for the trademark high notes

in the bittersweet chorus, and though I’m lying here  inbed,

arms wrapped around nothing but a pillow, I’m lying

to myself, and in the lie, I’m dancing with the rain–

a slow dance, a last dance, but dancing all the same.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Birdsong

At four they start their chorus, after a bit of a tune-up,

in the spring of the many birds—I don’t know when

I’ve seen such numbers, from bite-sized chickadees

to the fattest robins on record, showy cardinals

to mean-spirited jays. Whether their rousing strains

constitute a melodious symphony or merely a

cacophonous racket remains a question for debate—

a delight for the early riser but hardly conducive

to an open-windowed lie-in on a Saturday morning.

They flit about the garden and the branches of the

as yet unbloomed crepe myrtle shading my bedroom,

their arias invading my dreams and goading the cats

to sharpen their claws for a pre-dawn hunt.

The early ones create the earworms, their agents

and producers probably taking a generous cut.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Icon

Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Prize for literature,

but chances are I’ll never have that honor.

Maybe it’s only because I’m a terrible singer.

No, wait, that can’t be the problem.

Maybe it’s because my poems don’t make sense.

No, that can’t be the problem either.

Maybe it’s because I live in Oklahoma,

don’t carry a guitar, and don’t have rock-star hair.

Not to say his lyrics aren’t brilliant, they are,

but it takes more than words to be an icon–

it takes time and place and hair and guitars.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Morning Music

The cool night seeps in through the window,

and just before dawn, the soft music of a sad ballad

drifts into my gradually returning consciousness,

in a moment of gentle beauty

before the city returns to day,

the hotel with running showers and flushing toilets and clanking dishes,

the street with can brakes and car horns

and tienda grills sliding up,

and though I admit the room was stuffy in the afternoon,

I would have missed so much

in a room with sealed windows

and air-conditioning–

I would have missed the music.

 

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper