The Limits of Artistry

Jet trails scratch pink clouds

brushed across pale blue canvas,

slashed with palette knife,

the artist in frustration,

unable to paint the sky.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

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The Unslept

In the wind of the night,

a dog howls at the crescent

moon fractioned against

the round shadow

of its former fullness, leaking absinthe

dreams over the restless, fretful earth,

troubling its insomniacs

with wide-eyed consciousness,

as if Lethe flowed around them

but they somehow remained completely dry.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

Unrealized Potential

After L’Arlesienne by Van Gogh

 

The crumpled pages of the open book seem

ready to take flight from the mossy table

like a paper kite from a meadow,

but the brown-skinned woman,

not old, but old enough to know,

whose tired but sensitive hands

have thumbed them into perpetual

memory, does not look down

at the familiar pages, but off

into mustard-lit space, not

at the kite skipping along the ground,

but at the sky it’s aimed for,

not at the inadequate words

but at the ideas they might

have expressed, were such

things possible at all. Her

other book, the red one,

lies there closed; of it,

she’s had enough already,

its story ignoring hers.

 

Note: My result from a workshop session on ekphrastic poetry led by Mark Wagenaar and Mary Moore.

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Going Toward Darkness

Nothing going toward darkness

stops that early, though it moves

haltingly, loitering half-shadowed

between moonbeams, alternately

lobbing fears at your window

and slinking back behind

nightmare trees. Anxious

agitation winds you up in sheets,

but the tangled covers cover

nothing; going toward darkness

you shiver, cold, exposed.

Note: Based on a deconstruction of Mark Strand’s “The Coming of Light” for a workshop led by Jericho Brown.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

The Inevitable Birthday Poem

The tumbled geometries of the cityscape

bask in pools of light–cool blue, warm golden;

the tenderest top leaves of the young pear tree

adjacent to the rooftop deck slow dance

to the softly swirling autumn breeze

on a still-too-warm October evening,

and azaleas bloom out of season.

Another birthday; I’ve rolled a double five.

 

I guess it’s good enough to be alive,

not important to understand the reason,

but to  take the air and just keep breathing;

treat others kindly but do as you please;

don’t be afraid to take your one big chance.

The Boss says open doors don’t mean the ride’s free;

to your history you may be beholden,

but the road itself is your escape.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

Too Much

It might have been the bills piling up,

or the dishes, or the vodka bottles,

or the impending deadlines for dental

appointments and vet visits and paper

submissions, a careless glance at the calendar,

that buried him under the covers

that morning he couldn’t get

out of bed, couldn’t get

up, couldn’t get

a promotion, a raise, couldn’t get

psyched up, couldn’t get

laid, couldn’t get

his ducks in a row, couldn’t get

a hold of himself, couldn’t get

no satisfaction, couldn’t get

a life, couldn’t get

the courage to end it,

couldn’t get

on with it,

lying in the dark,

tired of lying,

tired of darkness,

tired of anxious anxiety,

tired of depressing depression,

tired of maniacal mania,

dangling from both disordered poles,

dropping,

sinking into the mattress,

curling into a fetal ball,

pulling the covers over his head,

panicking as he attacked

the alarming clock.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper