Inside the coffeehouse, standing with hands on his bike,

a white racer, not new—there’s tape on the saddle,

as if on the verge of departure, but making

no perceptible movement toward the door,

lingering instead to converse with a friend

seated at one of the small, square tables

near the counter, with a book and a cortado,

but remaining standing himself, as if inseparable from the bike,

in dirty white joggers pushed up to his knees

and a faded black V-neck, not cut deep,

but just deep enough to reveal a hint

of chest hair along the clavicle, his face freckled

by the sun, arms marked by cycling scrapes,

and his brown hair, kind of messy, not badly cut,

just not fussed over, spilling out from under

a backward baseball gap, one strand drooping over his brow,

drawing attention to his eyes, and what seductive

eyes they are, flickering bright, their color shifting

from hazel to blue to grey and back again,

and I’m hoping that he’s not noticing my glances,

even though I’ve chosen a seat facing him

so that I can steal them as I work, taking sips

of coffee as an excuse to look up from my laptop,

not only his appearance attracting me

but also his posture, his demeanor, his seeming

comfort in his skin, peace with his soul,

as the light glitters in his eyes and joy escapes

when a toothy grin registers a joke,

and as I pack up to go, he’s still standing there,

with his bike, in the coffeehouse, and two weeks later,

he’s still standing there, with his bike,

in my mind, his image lodged there yet.


Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper


Cyclist Leaving Cafe

Cute Mid-Eastern dude

looking good in olive tee,

shorts, grey canvas kicks;

walking his bike past the cafe,

classic racer, skinny-tired.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper


And Version 2.o, for the editors:


The Cyclist Leaving a Cafe

A cute Middle-Eastern dude

looking the good in an olive tee,

the shorts, and also the grey canvas kicks,

and probably the other clothing as well so that a poem has the  line that doesn’t fit so that it looks more an experimental;

walking a bike past the cafe,

the classic racer, a skinny-tired.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper


Note: The editors turned down some tankas I sent to their magazine.  It was the good kind of rejection; they were nice, said they received many submissions and were fiendishly selective, and offered advice: Don’t stick to the traditional syllable count, and don’t omit any articles.  Maybe they’re right.  I will give it some thought.  In the meantime, though, I couldn’t resist having a little fun.