Out of Reach

Always just slightly out of reach,

on the edge of the bed, the edge of his seat,

hand on the doorknob, warm spot cooling,

always about to be, maybe already, somewhere else,

but there’s no transporter, no vanishing-cabinet,

no magical disappearance, still here in his way,

and so you reach, you’re always reaching,

arm extended, just inches from a hand to hold,

a foot or two from the full embrace

that you need so badly, and maybe he does too,

if only arms were longer, space less infinite.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


Eden Falls


It must be an ancient place,

the way the mountain has eroded,

maybe sacred once to one tribe or another

in a time when life was simpler, more elemental,

and still it feels like a sanctuary–cool, dark, and silent,

but for the soothing fall of holy water,

and the avian choristers’ anthem.

Translucent green leaves filter the sunlight,

dark branches like the leading

between colored pieces of stained glass

telling old stories too distant to easily believe.

Like an empty cathedral, a tranquil, reflective space

that fills with one’s own belief or doubt.

But these stones were never hewn by human hands;

there’s no need for a preacher’s pulpit or bishop’s chair,

or even the allusion to some lost paradise

from which this place takes its name,

because divinity comes here

to touch the earth, to breathe the air,

to mingle with the waters.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


I’m attempting to learn Danish, so just for fun (bare for sjovt), here’s my attempt at a translation into Danish:

Eden Vanfald

Det kan kun være en gammel sted,

på grund af hvordan eroderet bjerget,

måske hellige en gang til en stamme eller en anden

i dag da levet var enklere, mere elementære,

og stadig er det som en helligdom—

kølig, mørke, og næsten stille,

selvom den beroligende falde af helligt vand,

salmen sunget af fugle.

Gennemsigtig grønne blade diffunderer sollyset,

deres mørke grene som bly

mellem stykker af farvet glas

at fortæl historier for lang væk til at tro nemt.

Som en ledig kirke, et roligt rum som fyldes op

med mands egen tro eller tvivl.

Men disse sten blev aldrig skåret

af menneskers hænder;

der er ikke behov for prædikants eller biskops stol,

eller for allusionen til nogle tabte paradis

hvorfor den tager dens navn,

fordi kommer guddommelighed her

til at røre jorden, til at trække vejret i luften,

til at blande med farvandet.




Secret Rivers

At the conflux of secret rivers,

lie portals sacred and mystical,

where bones rise with the spirits—

unseen, but sometimes heard, jangling and moaning;

and felt, their magnetic motion always felt, as the waters

flow under our feet, through our consciousness, over our souls.

Hidden, these rivers, concealed,

sometimes restricted, but never contained, never completely contained.

The fisher king angles among them, the sailor drowns

where they deepen and whirl without warning.

At the conflux of secret rivers,

the old gods, pagan but wise, demand

the old rituals, the sacrifice of blood that appeases

their lustful, capricious appetites,

troubling, but necessary, always necessary

for firing human passion.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


Pink Azaleas

The pink azaleas fade the fastest,

their festive petals turning a nasty brown.

All year they’ve waited for their glory moment,

the sudden burst of bloom that makes them

special among the other shrubs,

but their faces once revealed begin to crumple

and decay, so that within in a week

they’re like aging drag queens

holding out for one last show

before saying goodbye to the stage.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


Nôtre-Dame des flammes

Even the holy water of the Seine,

the re-baptism by fire-brigade hoses,

could not prevent Our Lady’s

close encounter with the hellish flames

sent to test her fortitude and mock

her claims on eternal existence,

and yet, despite her scorched tresses,

her toppled aspirational crown,

the burning in her mediaeval gut,

her heat-forged spirit endures,

hard as the stone of her towers

still raised Orans-style toward heaven,

signaling the path that her body,

like her spirit, will ascend

at resurrection.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


April is a month, the month if you’re a poet,

at least two months if you’re an academic,

not the cruelest month maybe, but the fullest,

and, as Lou Reed warned us, it’s always,

always back to the rain, cold and heavy

as the seasons fluctuate, trying to settle

on spring but not quite succeeding yet.

We did our pilgrimages last month,

for spring break, beaches and mountains

this century’s shrines of choice,

and the land here’s not dead,

except figuratively, maybe, spiritually;

the azaleas, oblivious, threaten to bloom.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


St. Patrick’s Day, Tulsa, 2019

The church shifts it forward this year–

Sundays not being for single saints–

but the festival-makers stretch it

out over the whole weekend, this

everyone-Irish feast that everyone except

the Irish celebrates, knowing little of Patrick,

but assuming his fondness for stout ale

and the occasional whiskey for breakfast,

all things green, and maybe having heard

something about his chasing snakes away,

But his day here is a kind of rite of spring,

especially this time around, coinciding

with the start of spring break for local colleges,

and morning has broken blue-skied and sunny,

and though nature’s show of green

is limited mostly to early-bird weeds,

the trees are budding with potential,

the odd tulip blossom trying to open,

the songbirds lilting an Irish air.

The street parties will draw big crowds

on a day like this, almost perfect,

and maybe Padraig, reanimated, would

be appalled, but maybe he’d just raise

a slainte, join in and dance an ecstatic reel.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper