I Love You, I Guess

Why I love you I cannot imagine:

Not ugly, but certainly not a movie star,

your choice of clothes hardly the latest fashion;

you drive what I can barely call a car.

 

I won’t say shallow, but you’re not an intellectual,

your emotional boxcars derailed and crashing.

Well past youth, becoming rather forgetful,

overspending, running short of cash.

 

Sometimes I think you’ve forgotten I exist,

watching TV or or leaving when I come in.

You’re hard to please; I’m always on your list

for one thing or another–it never ends.

 

Why I love you I really have no clue,

yet when all is said and done, I do.

 

Note: The addressee is hypothetical, the traits an amalgam.

 

Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

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View Over Rim of Raised Cup

They’d cast him as the courtier returned from France

if he played parts from Shakespeare on the stage,

but today he acts the barista’s part,

making espressi at the coffeehouse.

Tallish and lean, pale-skinned but darkly featured,

thick, wavy hair pulled back in ponytail,

eyes about the color of milk chocolate,

moustache, which I don’t usually go for, but

him it seems to suit; his arms are smooth,

like the bit of chest exposed by low-necked

T-shirt, with his pen clipped to the collar.

The shirt is great, the strap of his apron

looping around his neck’s dark blue.

Haven’t see him here before: He’s new.

 

Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Cardigan

On the sofa in jeans and cardigan

loosely buttoned over purple shirt,

low-cut canvas sneakers, navy Converse;

slender, blue-eyed, not a model but handsome.

 

With a friend, having a casual chat

at the coffeehouse on a sunny Saturday,

legs crossed, long-fingered hands; punctuating

his narrative with a quiet laugh.

 

Can’t hear the secrets he has to tell,

but when he smiles, I smile as well.

 

Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

A Shelf of My Grandmother’s Books

She had collected the Harvard Classics too,

in their dark green faux-leather covers, but I

have chosen the other set, from a publisher called Black’s,

bound in red cloth embossed with black and gold,

Smythe-sewn spine, small print, and rough-cut pages,

because the editors’ quirky choices–

they sometimes get it right, as with Shakespeare,

Hawthorne and Ibsen, Byron, Dostoevsky–

but Bret Harte?  And who the hell is Haggard?

But the randomness reminds me of her,

who without discrimination read

voraciously–romances, mysteries,

biographies, how-to books, the Bible–

often three books, or four, simultaneously.

Intelligent but from hard times, she’d never

been to college, though she dreamed of it,

wanted to write, took a correspondence

course in writing children’s stories, assignments

picked out on a little Olivetti,

sent in by mail,  and then her anxious wait

for the reader’s letters, her certificate.

She and I sometimes got on, sometimes

not so much; she made the move “back home”

when I was an independent teen,

not wanting all the attention she longed to give me.

Only later did I want to hear

her stories, and by then, it was hard–

her hearing had been badly damaged when she

worked on radios during the war, and a plane

took off unexpectedly when she

had forgotten her ear protection,

and her deafness grew worse and worse with age;

much later, an accident injured her eyes, and then

she become displaced in time, unsure

if she was speaking to me or to my father.

And then I felt remorse for my behavior,

regretful about what I might have learned.

Often I suspect that my love of books

comes from her, so upon her death,

the remembrance that I wanted was

a set of books reflective of the desire

for education that she always harbored.

Despite our conflicts and her flaws, despite

how she become impossible near the end,

I loved her, and I know she helped shape

the career path that I would take.

Perhaps her influence primed me to be a poet.

 

Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Necklace

 

The fashion shot ostensibly displays

a necklace made by a famous jeweler,

but the jewelry, only partially visible,

might be the last thing that the viewer notices

when opening up the double-page spread of the nude

young man reclining on a figured coverlet,

dark, curly head propped on an arm-supported

pillow, his brown eyes longing, his mouth revealing

frustration, whether with desire or merely

some petty disappointment not made clear.

 

The photographer having coaxed him into

a half roll from stomach to right side,

the model presents his body in pleasing curves,

from peak of shoulder slightly flexed, through gentle

slope down to lower back and then smooth rise

from slender hip to buttock, and underneath

the shadowed depression just hinting at unseen

genitalia, blue-inked old-school tattoo

just where inner thigh and abdomen

come together, a tree beside water.

 

Yes, I had forgotten; he wears a necklace,

a slender, unremarkable chain of gold.

 

 

Note: This poem responds to a photograph by Fabiola Zamora that appeared in the November 2013 issue of Out.

 

Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper