Great Again

The terrorism of the autocrat

deploys no bombs homemade

from pipes or pressure-cookers,

but, even if bloodless, wounds

the souls of the people, of the

nation, left to exist in pain

or limbo, but deprived of the

rights that make existence life.

It punishes, excludes, runs

backward over progress

and flattens it, drives it

underground. And it lays

a pipeline, a conduit of

hatred and alienation, and

becomes itself the pressure-

cooker, screwing down

the lid that will fly off

across the kitchen when

the anger and fear explode,

breaking the country apart,

glorifying the tyrants

of economic oppression,

burdening those already

kicked in the face, deflated

by the persistent absence

of opportunity. And the

seekers—of asylum,

of settlement, of peace,

will be turned empty

away from the country

that immigrants built

over the graveyards

of the indigenous,

further denigrating

their martyrdom. The

nation that has grown

rich through the

proud exploitation

of its natives, its

incomers, its underclasses

and exiles, but now

refuses to share. If

greatness rests on hatred,

on discrimination and

exclusion, on ignorance

and misunderstanding,

the great again seems

less noble.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper



For Maria Spelleri


In a dispassionate play Bertolt Brecht would have written

if only there had been more time, the goddess Athena,

the owl-eyed diva of wisdom, no great beauty, still

a material girl at heart, has taken up prostitution

because sex work, though unglamorous, yields ready

cash—she has done the math—and a girl does what

she has to do while fashion houses keep churning out sweatshop

leather bags that one must have to prevent the fall

of another civilization, and so, inspired by designer logos,

she has mapped out her strategy, donned her emotional

armor, taken up her snake-wrapped spear, and gone

calmly, deliberately, courageously into war to maintain

her fashionable image and save the economy from ruin.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper

Dietro Vetro

Piazza Duomo from Novecento

Umbrellas, red, blue, purple, yellow, and pink

dot the rain-drizzled piazza in front of the Duomo

the mellow light of early evening bathing the crowd

assembling for a political rally, the scene viewed

through a high-up window in the Museo del Novecento,

reflection and shadow lending it a surreal glow,

the piazza like a chessboard with human pawns,

the long-standing facades opposite a reminder

there’s nothing new under the sun or moon, and though

my Italian’s not good enough for me grasp the details

of the politics, I know it’s politics—there’s a party

and an anti-party, and things are more complicated

than they seem, and yet the differences are not so great.

I ask a waiter at a café alongside what’s going on.

It’s he who tells me the event is political—speakers

will follow the band, the cans of beer in everyone’s

hands a little lubrication to ease the entry of the message.

Back at my hotel, I ask the night clerk what he knows

about the event. It’s news to him, but we agree

that politics, however important, however necessary,

interferes with proper digestion and is best kept behind glass.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper