Male Beauty Speaks with Musical Voice



Skinny but cute in black tee and cranberry shorts

with golden blond hair attractively shaggy

sitting cross-legged on one of the tall chairs near

the windows, in a position I probably couldn’t

even get into,


Speaking softly in a sweet musical voice to his

friend across the table as they work on homework

for college,


Left-handed, he gestures with the long slender

fingers of his right, arm curving gracefully outward

as in the bird-flapping-wings movement

of tai chi,


And then, as he digs for something in his backpack,

he looks up and smiles, extending a shapely leg,

light-haired and lightly tanned and arching

a sandaled foot,


And I wish for a moment that I were thirty years

younger and back in the day when, under the

right circumstances, I might have been

the friend.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper


My Youth Among Trees


A little pine limb blown down last night in rain,

cracked open, exudes with scented sap

memories of my childhood, with trees.


As a baby, I crawled in sycamore shade,

became a toddler pointing to people Sunday-dressed

strolling oak-lined small-town streets.


When five, I hauled bricks

in tricycle-drawn wagon to help

Dad build a patio under water oaks.


At nine, among the lakeside pines

My friends and dog and I

jumped into piles of prickly straw.


At Christmas, Mom made

decorations from pine burrs, cardboard,

glitter, and spray paint.


But then: A plague of beetles came to kill the pines;

almost all of them were cut,

teaching me how meanly nature acts.


When I was twelve, Mom having

returned to nursing work, I waited,

on weekday evenings just at dusk,


pacing along the row of cedars

my uncle had planted years before, to watch

for the yellow headlights of her arrival home.


That Christmas, she brought us a pretty

artificial tree, so that my dad and I no longer had to search

Granddaddy’s land for a pint-sized pine.


In my early teens, when my parents built

a new house behind a line of old pecans, I coerced

my younger brother to take the western room.


That way, I could have the morning sun

and watch the squirrels cavort

in the sprawling oak out front.


Still today, no matter where I am, I recall the trees that

sheltered me in youth, let them protect me from the greater heat

that blazes harshly down on grown-up heads.



Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Misty Windows

On a visit to my parents,

sleeping in what is and isn’t

my adolescent bedroom,

I wake to sunlight filtered

through mist-covered windows.


I know the view of lake and trees

through slatted Venetian blinds

so well I hardly need to see it;

yet the veil of condensation

changes my focus—to

the room itself, and me within it.


This bed is not my bed,

and it faces east, not south,

so perspective too has changed.

But the four walls are the same

once-fashionable green-grained

white paneling, and now, as then,

they contain me only partially,

though I never escape them fully.


The carpet has faded to greenish gold,

but a patch of it once covered by furniture

retains the spring green of its, and my, youth.

A school trophy, a stuffed-toy fox,

a box containing my high school ring

remain where I left them on a shelf,

dustier now, but still intact.


Within a glass-fronted bookcase,

added after the removal

of my piano, rest books and other

memorabilia once treasured,

now kept like artifacts in an historical museum

because no one has thought to remove them.


The same room, transformed,

and I technically the same person,

transmogrified into someone

who barely recognizes himself.


Some changes are merely superficial,

those of age—the beard, the

reduced elasticity of the skin,

the even worse eyesight.


Some grow deep: tangled vines

of sexuality and religion,

intellect and emotion,

ambitions and fears,

aspects of self I lack

the vocabulary to name.


For three or four minutes,

I lie propped on my elbows,

myopic eyes scanning the room,

mind muddling through abstraction,

and then I rise, put my glasses on,

and head downstairs.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper




His first name started with an L, I think;

his last, I never got around to asking.


Hook-ups are not my style, but

it had been awhile (years, not weeks);

he was cute and eager, and I, I was

bored and not overwhelmed with competing offers.


A well-groomed cosmetology student

at a local technical college,

he was quiet, all business:

He came, he came, he left.


A restless night ended with a morning

warm, breezy, and unexpectedly gray.

The smell of honeysuckle brought back

the soft-aired haze of southern adolescence.


Wondering what distinguishes nostalgia from regret,

I brewed the coffee strong, even for me.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper