Your crocodile tears splash salty guilt

into the ragged gashes your inconstant

and insatiable so-called love has

already slashed into my psyche,

but this time I will keep my eyes wide

and my ears open to recognize

the lies the deposed king of hearts,

of broken hearts—that’s your part

in this tired play—has composed

to push me away while chaining me

close, because this time I’m gone,

out of the game, away, as far away

as I can go. They said hearts,

and so you claimed, but now I look

inside and call what I see a spade.


Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper



At the Street-Food Festival

They arrived together at the food festival,

but not obviously connected—a certain

mutual energy, perhaps, but unaccompanied

by physical gesture. Mingling with the lively

crowd on a chilly but cheery Saturday,

they have strolled the open-air corridor

of brightly decorated food trucks and

chosen their cuisine, settling down to lunch.


The slightly sturdier one, bristly-haired,

dark-blond, but with brighter highlights,

wearing an olive hoodie over faded jeans

and grey leather high-tops, leans forward

slightly at the end of the folding table,

munching his sandwich, at a right angle

his sleeker, leaner, darker-haired companion,

leaning back in his X-shaped chaired,

dressed in a steel-blue jacket over

a black T-shirt, his dark-jeaned legs crossed,

feet in grey socks and grey low-top sneakers.

The eat, they converse with familiarity,

but their level of intimacy remains ambiguous.


Their lunch more or less finished, they

still sit at the folding table covered

festively but cheaply with a blue-and-white

checkered plastic cloth, but the blond

has moved from the end and now sits

beside the dark-haired one. sharing

draft beer from a big plastic cup,

and though the still refrain from

overt public displays of affection,

their demeanor clears up any

ambiguity, and even a distant

observer can feel their mutual

affection, take pleasure in their

enjoyment of each other’s company.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper

Cowboy Seeking Same


Personal ads rarely move me,

but this one did, a country boy

(self-proclaimed, but the genuine article,

not one of the wannabes who use the term

as if in quotation marks),

twenty-three, I think he said,

rail-thin but beam-strong

in his appropriate plaid shirt and jeans

and broad-brimmed hat shading his face.

You wouldn’t call him handsome or cute,

but you’d find it hard to turn him down.


He doesn’t want to chat or date

or find a buddy to get him off;

interested only in relationship material,

desperate for a redneck (again, his term)

of similar age to settle down with.

And when he says settle, you know he means it;

I can picture them at breakfast when they’re eighty,

drinking strong drip coffee, not eating much.


Lord knows I hope he finds his man

and they settle into mutual contentment

and build a life on that ranch

out in the middle of wherever it is,

raising cattle, coming to town

only on Saturdays, for supplies

and maybe a steakhouse or barbecue,

otherwise happy in their own company,

working hard outdoors all day,

cooling off with a dip in the creek,

once in a while sharing a drop

of whiskey from a flask on the fence

in the moonlight before heading in

to shed shirts and jeans and boots

(“Keep your hat on, Babe; you know

it makes me wild for a midnight ride”)

and exhaust themselves to sleep,

tangled like a mess of rope

uncoiled on the floor of a barn.


And if our young cowboy’s dream comes true,

I’ll be happy for him but still

a little envious, I think,

not only that he’s satisfied,

but that he wanted what I couldn’t.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper