Premature Guilt

Even in forests primeval, did innocence dwell,

among the tawny creatures in leafy dales,

or was it an imaginary essence unseen

not only in the city but among the greens?


If it ever existed, we cannot  say,

though we claim to have lost it along the anxious way;

we struggle to reclaim it, but never will–

same old story, Prometheus, rock, and hill.


We claim that Eden was a paradise,

yet Eve and Adam rolled dice and got snake eyes–

so evil came in shortly after first light;

before they entered the ring, they had lost the fight.


And light itself shadow creates, so thus

we are marked with darkness, unlucky us.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper


The most complicated systems

are a solid, cemented structure

of fake palm trees that do nothing

but lie.


It grows dark in the shadow of a white marble building,

and I feel bad, feel that it is my fault. I don’t want

to go to that dark place of my ancestors, cold, white,

snake-bitten in the darkness.


I beckon a physical light,

a light that begins to tremble

and bear witness to all

that they did, and by acts

like those thou didst teach

thy people the hope

of a new and better understanding.


But then the spirits vanished, and after that, they lived apart.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper


Note: This poem resulted from an exercise in a workshop on “Doing Stuff with Words” led by Grant Jenkins of the University of Tulsa. The poem was  constructed from fragmentary phrases and clauses culled more or less randomly from a variety of texts (including essays by Freud, the Bible, the Quoran, Joyce’s Dubliners, a novel by Rilla Askew, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, etc.).