The Horns Not Blown

RadhusetTowerwithStatues.jpg

The Rådhus tower

dwarfs the shadow

of its miniature

pointing to the

same cerulean sky

as the lur-blowers

raise their horns

in readiness

to announce

the arrival

of a virgin

passerby, but

their arms are tired

and their bronzed

mouths breathless,

their instruments

never played,

eternally silent.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Sankt Aleksandr Nevskij Kirke

RoyalQuarterAleksanderNevskijKirke

The triple onion domes, gilded and crossed,

atop the stripe- and diamond-patterned bricks

of the Muscovite-revival façade leave little

doubt of the church’s Russian pedigree;

its name confirms its dedication to the nation’s

sainted patron. Yet here the building rises

from a street in Købnhavn, like a single

vodka bottle on a shelf of akvavit,

having been financed by the second

Tsar Alex after the marriage of his son

to the Danish Princess Dagmar, who

would become Tsarita Maria when

the younger Alexander ascended

to the imperial throne. Though fate

struck a cruel blow to their son,

who lost his head when the Revolution

felled the Romanovs, their church

in Denmark stands, solid and orthodox.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

A Minion of Death Serves Breakfast at the Wakeup Hotel

waiter.jpg

Too anorexic to work as a fashion model

(with translucent skin whiter than the ghost

of porcelain drawn tight over his shaved

skull, black apron wrapped like a shroud

around his skeletal frame, eyes set deep

as if peering from a cave, mouth set

in a show of perpetual doom) he has taken

a job as a hotel waiter, moving around

the restaurant with zombie-like efficiency;

he performs his duties wordlessly, with

neither smile nor nod, replenishing the fruits

that nourish the living, with the secret

knowledge that death will take them soon

and he will feast finally on brains.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Thor Makes Coffee in Vesterbrø

VesterbroJoeandJuice

The barista wasn’t actually called Thor,

though he certainly might have been,

fair but strong Nordic features and

long platinum hair pulled back from

his face, grasping the espresso-machine

handle as if it were the fabled hammer–

godlike in his strength and beauty,

the mythic illusion marred only

by the incongruous sweatshirt

from an American university,

where he’s probably the star

of the rowing team or something.

And the cappuccino was good as well.

 

Copyright 2017

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

A Sad Display

The icicle lights still hanging from the eaves

of the house across the street in the middle

of May, the dumpsters still at the curb down

the block three days after garbage collection,

the paving stones for a terrace still in piles

two doors down make it clear enough I’m

not the only one who’s overwhelmed and

going down, but sometimes I still feel like

I’m in this game alone, afraid to tell friends

or admit to myself that I’m hung over and sad

on a beautiful spring day, not for the first

time, and probably should go to rehab

or something, except that doesn’t sound

like it would be much fun. And anyway,

maybe it’s not the disease, but only the

symptom of something, loneliness maybe,

the deep and desperate kind that you,

well, I, feel, sometimes even when I’m with

a friend, but mainly late at night when

I can’t sleep or on a Sunday afternoon

when the fear and dread sneak in.

But now, the guilt and self-deprecation

that make me pour another glass of wine

and crawl back into bed to hide

from reality under the covers and promise

myself that I’ll reform, though it’s unlikely.

Out the window, the wind ruffles the green

weeds under the clear blue sky and reminds

me that life renews, with me or without,

and somehow, oddly, that brings comfort.

 

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