Aunt Rosie’s Lamps

Some who lived through

the Depression and feared banks

stashed cash in coffee cans

and snuff glasses or buried

a few gold bars in the backyard,

but in my father’s family, my

grandmother and her sisters

hoarded the objects they had lacked

in the harder times of their youth.


With Rosa Lee (Aunt Rosie to me)

it was home furnishings—

sofas and chairs, tables and lamps,

and the larger the scale the better:

like the claw-footed mahogany desk

in the front bedroom that I loved

so much as a child that she said

one day she’d sell me for fifty dollars

if I ever saved that much.


She knew of course it was

an impossible sum for a child,

and said it without thinking to shut me up,

but when as a naïve teenager

who had remembered that promise for years

and actually saved up the fifty bucks,

I gave her a call, she had forgotten

all about her casual offer and said

she couldn’t really sell it.


Besides the desk, she had the massive

dining table acquired somewhere in New Orleans

under circumstances I never quite understood

that eventually filled my parents’ dining room as well,

and, quite atypically for the rural south

in the 1960s, her own bedroom decorated

with red Venetian blinds and a set of lamps

in the shape of sleek black leopards,

one of which, unlike the desk, made its way to me.


But the room that everyone, family

and company alike, most often saw

was the living room with the

commodious sofa and chairs made

of hardwood heavy as concrete, rattan-backed

and upholstered in soft green velvet,

the marble-topped and lyre-sided

mahogany occasional tables

on which rested the lamps:


The grandest ones I had ever seen,

some three feet tall and big enough

a child would have to stretch to reach around,

stacked globes of multicolored glass

on ornate bases trimmed in gold

that would have served as well

the lobby of a starred hotel

but cast their glow instead

on Rosie’s dreams.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper



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