An Elegy Belated by Decades

Our building at the college smells of chlorine

this morning—apparently something they’ve done to the floors—

and the sharp edge of its scent scraping my nose

triggers memories of my childhood days, those

I spent in the keeping of my father’s aunt, an old-school

Southern homemaker whose economical rules

meant collecting straw to make her own brooms,

and whose housecleaning standards required that every room

be scrubbed ceiling to floor with Pine-Sol or bleach—

no imperfection missed or deemed out of reach.

Chicken for dinner came from the backyard, neck

wrung and feathers singed—organic, low-tech.

When she said she’d have baked a cake had she known you were coming,

she meant it literally, a multi-layered something.

But there’d be crackling bread, some greens, a stew,

and looking up from her quilting, she’d be glad to see you.

She pushed a wheelbarrow to the store for the grocery haul;

she never contracted her greetings to “y’all” from “you all.”

Out in the garden, sunbonnet on, she hoed;

indoors after noon, she watched soap operas and sewed,

while I playacted traveling to Columbus,

where she said the train passing her house had its terminus.

By the time I knew her, she was elderly, by no means thin,

but a youthful beauty lingered in her glowing clear skin.

At five with a cold I balked at her smelly cures,

but she was a remarkable woman; her memory endures.

 

 

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Homeless in Tyler

A country lyric inspired by complications with a hotel reservation

 

Verse 1: Homeless and lonesome on the streets of Tyler,

my lover has left me, my friends have all gone;

but, like you can see, I keep walking and smiling,

drinking cheap whiskey ’til I feel like I’m home.

 

Chorus: Homeless, homeless in Tyler . . .

I’m just a loser—drunk, lonesome, and broke.

Homeless, homeless in Tyler . . .

The bottle’s run dry, I’ve lit up my last smoke.

 

Verse 2: When I get too drunk, I’ll lie still and play dead.

If you happen to find me before it’s too late,

don’t try to help me, just shoot me instead.

It’ll do me no harm to speed up my fate.

 

Repeat chorus

 

Bridge: Tyler’s in Texas, and Texas is big,

but the stars in the sky are not meant for me.

 

Verse 3: I could have been famous, or lucky in love,

or living life large in some mansion somewhere,

but the fact of the matter’s I’m totally fucked,

with no place to go and no one to care.

 

Repeat chorus

Repeat and fade

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper