The Mission of Orpheus

After a line by Margaret Fuller


Each Orpheus must nature forge in his soul’s fire,

and play its secret chords on his sweet lyre,

pluck its melodies on supple strings,

and try to stir to life dead dreams;

with his enchanting art attempt to raise

mere mortal love from an immortal grave.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper



No Turning

After many years of intermittent insanity,

anxiety and depression, everything spun

out of control and I came to wander

in the wilderness of psychosis, where

I saw delusional visions of a sane oasis,

but I did not conquer my demons,

and when I struck rock bottom,

no water flowed.

The world turns and changes,

but I do not hope to turn again.

No water flowed, and no wine flowed,

and I forgot who had how many

prodigal talents to be denied,

in age, my age, the ages of the rocks,

the forgetfulness that comes with age–

and you were my rock once,

but you rolled away,

gathering no moss.

The world turns and changes,

but I do not hope to turn again.

And I have not forgotten my talents,

nor do I have the heart to cut

a tree, even the fruitless fig,

but the volume of my trumpets

cannot fell the walls,

regardless of what raised them;

my song plays softer,

and the rabble overwhelms it.

The world turns and changes,

but I do not hope to turn again.

There is no infinity like

the finity of dreams.,

and yet, we go on,

visionless, we go on,

doubting our belief,

questioning its relevance,

but too fearful

to relinquish it.

The world turns and changes,

but I do not hope to turn again.

Until the cataclysm, the earth

will rotate and orbit its destruction,

and I will soldier on,

thought it’s too late to change;

the world will turn,

but I cannot,

being from where

I am destined to be.

The world turns and changes,

but I do not hope to turn again.

On the dance floor at the concert,

I move to the music,

gyrate and sway,

but I do it in one spot.


Copyright 201t

T. Allen Culpepper


Mantelpiece Tableau

The white stag prances

fearlessly among tigers,

secure in the pride

of his majesty, almost

too good to eat;

and the tigers,

satiated, for the moment,

from a prior kill, humor

him, drowsily bemused

by his recklessness,

but disinclined

to hunt.


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,


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

Morning Sun

The hungover sun,
still pale from last night,
blankets itself in clouds
and reaches red-fingered
for the snooze button:
Just ten more minutes;
the planets can wait.

Copyright 2017
T. Allen Culpepper

The Worms Are Coming

Though drinking only coffee,
methought the lawn did move,
and I was not mistaken:
A thousand thousand warrior worms,
making their circuitous march
behind waving blades of grass,
like the soldiers bearing branches
that made the Birnam Forest walk.
Their mission remains classified,
but I fear the plot’s not comic.

Copyright 2017
T. Allen Culpepper