Poems By Jackson Culpepper
The Old Story
My grandmother cuts a piece of caramel cake
and gives it, ice cream too. There in her kitchen
she points the crystal's spraying—“my rainbows”
she calls them. With joy she finds a red, a green,
a yellow mixed with blue. The fine wrinkles
above her eyes are folding porcelain.
Giles County's hills are like those wrinkles. Soft fields
steep and lined with leafy fences. Autumn sun
on the hickories is like her rainbows, like the fire-glow
joy in her eyes. Barns, gray as nursery rhymes,
bright with tin green Sundrop signs
are like her; witnesses of kind and simple people,
fading to the hills.
Her second husband, Alan—I remember him
in the rocks, worn like old tools, that mark the fields.
When the deer run, when the turkeys call,
I think of him and hear him in their running,
in the quiet stalking breath
of watching them.
I never knew my real grandfather.
His spirit is like the smoke of the hills
where it settles in the valleys. The old story—
the goodness of simple country people—
hides with him behind the falling cattle barns,
in dim glass windows of his old Methodist church.
It hides within the failing dusk
just past the bend in the holler.
In the Truck, in the Sky
It was not cold, must
have been spring. Leaving the fire,
we climbed into the back of the truck.
We watched the full moon,
the stars spinning through their hours,
the thin clouds sliding across
the sky, translucent. We talked,
teenage longings for girls, for what
we thought might be love. We spoke
to the stars as Orion rose heavy in the east.
As Delphinus, in a tiny patch, swirled around
the cosmic center. We may never talk
in such a way again. Still, today,
our hopes rise on certain pinlit nights,
and are pulled away by the spinning stars,
like those hopes we spoke without understanding
why we wished for them.
Scorpio's claws catch them
as he rises, or they draw to Sirius
as moths to a flame.
Jackson Culpepper's work has appeared previously in /The
Siren /and /The Phoenix/. After graduation from the University
of Tennessee with an English BA, he plans to pursue an MFA,
sometime. He likes fishing, bluegrass and old black-and-white
samurai movies. His writing tends to be about isolation, fear
and loathing, but ultimately about joy.