The loveliest breeze

stirs coolness into morning,

smells of promised rain,

and picks up scent of just-mown

grass, respite from hot July.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper


Transgender Social Mathematics

He was a he trapped in a she,

she was a she confined in a he;

Now he has escaped from the prison of she,

and she has diffused from the limits of he.

And he has fallen for her, and she has fallen for him,

so that he and she have become

a sane, happy, united they.


He minus she equals he.

She minus he equals she.

He plus she equals they.

They roughly equals we.


So we can accept and be glad for them.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

On “Tatjana, Veiled Head, Tight View”

In a portrait Ritts shot at Joshua Tree,

her head wrapped in black cloth,

a sheer veil both reveals her face

and curtains it off from us.

Her eyes, perhaps green or blue

(the photograph’s in black and white),

under gracefully arching brows,

cast an open gaze, frank despite its masking.

Her other features, a slender classic nose,

lips full but not unnaturally enhanced.

Though I know neither the woman nor her story,

her expression’s that of a confidant woman,

who knows what she wants and how

to get it without compromising herself,

who makes her own choices about

what and when to display, conceal.

The veil adds texture to her countenance

in the way of cracks in the paint

of a Renaissance portrait not yet restored.

Mostly the photo emphasizes

the left-and-down diagonal threads

making up the veil, suggesting

optimistic motion, but

over the woman’s left cheekbone,

to the viewers’ right when facing the image,

the crossthreads stand out more,

as if on a face in the aftermath of tears.

Her composure has arrived perhaps

by way of sorrow as well as joy.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Depp by Ritts

Improbably seated on a kitchen stove

in a 1990 portrait shot in Los Angeles

by Herb Ritts, a still-young Johnny Depp,

his eyes deep pools of brown, gazes

at the camera. He’s dressed in T-shirt,

jeans, black boots, a single pendant

suspended from a chain circling his neck.

He sits on the burners beside a kettle,

left foot resting on the open oven door,

right leg crossed over knee, both hands

clasping boot, cigarette between the

fingers of the left. His hair, shorter than

in later years, a careful mess on top,

razor-cut wedges on the sides; there’s

a bit of scruff above his pouty lips,

a small tattoo adorning his left bicep.

“This is me,” he seems to say, “the way I am.

Accept it, deal with it, or just move on.”


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

On “Stephano, Seated, Milan” by Ritts

In a 1985 platinum print

by the late photographer Herb Ritts,

a young man in Milan, Stephano,

sits nude but self-enveloped,

masculine but vulnerable,

perhaps even a bit fragile,

emotionally if not physically.

His dark hair’s center-parted

and cut to fall just below his jawbone,

his head tilted back and to the right,

mouth turned down—thoughtful merely?

or weary, anxious, peeved?

His right hand rests in his lap;

his left arm crossed over his torso,

left hand clutching right shoulder,

knees drawn up to his chest.

The platinum printing gives

his skin a bronzy sheen.

He sits on a polished black floor,

leans against a white wall

and lighted shadowed beam,

but it seems his life is anything but

black and white,

everything relative and complex,

maybe sometimes too much

for him to handle.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Dude in the Art Museum

Tall and skinny, wearing brown felt hat,

with shaggy mop of blond curls sticking out,

red bandana hanging from back pocket

of skinny jeans; white T-shirt short and taut;


his outfit completed with brown leather boots.

In the art museum he’s taking a look

at the exhibition of contemporary works.

An eccentric style that suits a young turk.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper