Note: I attended a poetry workshop conducted by Tina Chang, who gave us the difficult task of writing a poem in the person of someone we detest.  There aren’t too many people I detest, but Fred Phelps was one of them, so here is my attempt to speak in his persona.

“They all dared to accuse

only me of hate-mongering,

blind to the hypocrisy of their

own “say no” campaigns,

and though I felt no love

for them and their wicked

ways, I acted always

for their benefit,

condemning their actions,

trying to prise them away

from their iniquitous obsession,

calling them to leave it,

to repent before

the point of no return,

when the wrath

of an angry God,

worse by many orders

of magnitude than

any human hate,

a God who loathes them

for their abomination

and will consume

them body and soul

in the flames of his fury,

and as they burn,

they will turn to one

another and acknowledge

whom they should have


Copyright 201

T. Allen Culpepper

View from a Childhood Window

On tiptoe, my palms against the smooth wood paneling,

my fingers clutching the cool aluminum frame of the

roll-out windows that will soon be a factor in many tricycle

accidents resulting in minor head injuries, I can just

peak outside and see our dog, stretched on the splintery

deck, pine trees dropping their straw-like needles,

the little lake’s blue-grey waves, a dull-green fishing

boat anchored in the slough, sun bleaching the driveway

sand; hear the buzz of the screened-out mosquitoes,

a distant rhythmic splash; smell fish and sap, gardenia

blossoms and outboard-motor fuel, the last of which

will many years later, when the trailer is gone, the trees

have been cut, and the dog has gone wherever good

dogs go, remind me always of my late uncle skiing.

Note: This is the result of an exercise I did in a workshop conducted by Ben Myers at the Nimrod writers’ conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, October 2015.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper


Flora) the Goddesse of flowres, but indede (as saith Tacitus) a famous harlot, which with the abuse of her body hauing gotten great riches, made the people of Rome her heyre: who in remembraunce of so great beneficence, appointed a yearely feste for the memoriall of her, calling her, not as she was, nor as some doe think, Andronica, but Flora: making her the Goddesse of all floures, and doing yerely to her solemne sacrifice. –Gloss on the March eclogue from Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender


A humble goddess, Flora,

rooting herself in dirt,

but hardly a modest one,

dressing in gaudy colors,

spreading her petals

for all and sundry,

present at every celebration,

willing even to comfort the sick,

always at the funerals,

though she owns no black.

Her great joy is the springtime,

when fluids begin to circulate,

her heyday the heat of summer

if the heat doesn’t dry up her business;

in the quieter autumn she stays mum,

in winter keeps to her bed.

Some have called her whore and harlot,

but she prefers the gentler courtesan,

dispenser of attainable beauty,

perishable, fleeting, but yet perennial.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

Herbicide to Some Degree

I confess I killed the blanket flower,

snuffed out its autumnal blossoms

petaled in hues of mustard and rust,

brought from the nursery fully quick

but now dead brown out by the walk.

It was not an act of willful murder,

and yet I acknowledge herbicide

by negligence: I know that it handled

its tangled roots much too roughly,

knew even then I was confining them

in too small a pot, the only one I had,

bigger than the nursery container,

but still, I left them no room to stretch

and thrive, unwilling to make the minor

sacrifice of returning to the store

to pay the higher price for a larger pot

and lug home the heavier clay. And

then I fear I might have overwatered

the poor thing as well. Harboring yet

the faintest hope of its resurrection,

I can’t just throw it heartlessly away,

even knowing that the cause is all

but lost. I regret my careless actions

and wish that I could make amends,

but I know a jury of seasoned gardeners

would find me guilty in two minutes.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper