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

 

April

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

 

Not My Wedding, Not My Royals

On accidentally being in London on the day of the royal wedding

Harry and Megan never consulted me

before scheduling their royal wedding for when

I would be making my very first visit to England,

and my invitation got lost in the Royal Mail–

they might at least have invited me to the reception–

so while they were saying their vows at Windsor Castle,

I was touring London’s parks and squares,

where people congregated to enjoy

a fine spring day in a celebratory mood;

only the monarchists interpreted the lovely weather

as a sign of heaven’s blessing on the couple,

but even republicans were game for a picnic and a pint.

In Green Park and St. James’s, the tourists

strolled about, taking the royal air

despite Her Majesty’s absence from Buckingham Palace,

while locals sat around chatting or walked their dogs.

In Russell Square, twenty-somethings sunned themselves shirtless,

and loners read novels on shady benches

under gnarly plane trees leafy and green,

against one of which a terrier relieved himself.

Two uni students on a coffee date

at the Italian cafe in the corner

spoke of their studies, politics, life, and themselves

over cappuccino ordered so late in the day

that the Italians surely snickered in laughing derision.

At the adjacent table, three English generations–

father, son, and father’s father–drank pints

from tall, thin pilsner glasses, and in

the trio one could see three ages of man.

The young man, blond and bright, drew my eye,

but I pondered his father’s thoughts, and feared

that I share most of the grandpa’s years.

An Asian family talked little but exchanged

glances charged with centuries of meaning,

and two elder gents, one armed with a can,

the other in a driving cap, commented

dryly on perpetual injustice

and chuckled at the antics of a pair of corgis;

I wondered if Virginia Woolf had dogs,

and, if so, how they coped with loss.

Over in Soho pretty boys sat on the lawn,

gossiping and drinking beer from cans;

the mood was about the same, though the denim

was slashed more artfully and the humor a bit more arch:

With the aid of a paper mask, someone had dressed

the statue of Charles the Second in Meghan drag.

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

Wake

Drowsy from reading, I stretch out on the bed,

near, but not touching, the cat, who likes her space,

and various pasts and futures fill my head

with thoughts, some welcome, others hard to face.

 

The window, left partially open, admits the wind,

and riding it in, the melodies of birds–

song that trills above the dishwasher’s din;

the thoughts stir feelings too  difficult for words.

 

The approach of spring always creates

unstable emotions that swirl around and collide:

the wish for freedom bound up with the need to mate;

new dreams mixed in with fear that something’s died.

 

My love craves exposure, but I’m wary,

even though you’re just imaginary..

 

Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper