This is our life, our own special hell.

Try as we might, we’re still doomed to failure,

with no goods to bargain, no souls to sell.


It’s all vanity; trouble’s stickier than blood.

Forget your ambitions; you might as well sail your

little paper boats in puddles of mud.


I’m not pessimistic, just being real;

our wills are constrained like pent-up jailbirds,

so it’s easier to deal if you forget how to feel.


Armour up like a knight, but stay in the castle.

It’s dangerous out there on quests for the grail; turn

back now to safety, it’s not worth the hassle.


Limit to the back yard your adventurous forays,

because heroes are heroes only in stories.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

A Southern Eclogue

Adapted from Virgil

Cory the farmhand burned with love

for the pale-skinned Alex, the boss’s favorite.

Cory knew he had no chance, but he

would still hang out in the pine grove

and holler out his misery:

“Alex, you are way too cruel.

Don’t you even hear me at all?

Don’t you feel a little pity?

You’ll be the death of me if not.

Even the animals come to the shade

with me in the heat of the day and let

me pet them. And when the workers come

back home tired out from bailing hay,

Tess cooks up some food for them,

and they’re all joking with each other,

but I am all on my lonesome,

going back out in the sun to try

to figure out where you’ve run off to.

I’d be better off putting up

with moody Mario or Malcolm the tease,

both dark-haired, not blond like you.

But don’t obsess with color, handsome;

white privet blossoms fall to the ground,

just like dark hyacinths get pulled.

You just look down on me, Alex,

if you notice me at all.

If you bothered to ask, you would know

that my dad is rich, and one day

I’ll inherit his land and stock.

I see you and love what I see,

but I’m pretty hot myself;

I was looking at my reflection

in the catfish pond today,

and I’d be a match for Denny, that boy

that everybody raves about,

even if you were doing the judging.

I wish you could be happy living

with me in a rustic cabin in the woods,

going deer-hunting when we’re not herding cows,

or drinking on the porch and singing

country  songs when we finish our chores.

I have a guitar, and I reckon

I can play about as well as Monty can.

And I know where to find

a couple of whitetail deer

I was saving to stalk with you,

but my cousin Theo wants to hunt them,

and I guess he might as well,

since you don’t want any favors from me.

Oh, come on, handsome boy, and bring

me a package. But, no, I know

you won’t, and I’m just making myself

miserable for nothing. Yet and still

I know the woods, and like a wolf

eats up a goat that eats the grass,

driven by instinctive hunger,

I want a taste of you; my love’s

a fire that no one can put out.

But if you won’t put out for me,

or even look my way and smile,

I guess it’s time to hit the road

and find myself another Alex.”


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper





First Evening of September

On the front porch on a breezy evening

when the weather’s still summer but the mood is fall:

the kids on their bikes raucous and wild,

the light of a jetliner like Venus in motion,

someone cruising by in a convertible couple,

cats chasing insects, imaginary and real,

a neighbor’s flag flying upside-down,

create-myrtle branches gently swaying,

Italian music and a glass of red wine.

The only thing missing’s someone to share it.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper


A slab of grey-streaked marble cloud

leans against the pale blue sky

not yet gilded by the sun,

like a piece of construction material

tilted up to a just-primed wall

at a building site, in wait

for the workers to arrive

and fix it to its proper place;

then red-eye planes like diamond knives

saw sharp lines through the sheet of stone,

cutting it into squares of tile.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper

Sleeping with Murderers

No, of course I don’t condone it;

I have enough religion left

to disapprove of pointless killing,

especially of victims totally defenseless.


Yet, that is what they both have done,

out of boredom and love of sport,

and here I am in bed between them,

sharing familial warmth and comfort,


admiring the beauty of their forms

as I watch them sleep in peace,

with no regret for their act of malice,

for the baby rabbit they have torn


apart with their vicious claws–

bloodthirsty felines living lawless.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper