“Cultivation of Culturedness,” by David Hutto

Dec 20th, 2023 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I’m sure you’re the kind of person who likes culture. Maybe you own shirts with buttons. I don’t know. Maybe you’ve read a book without pictures for some reason. Maybe you use a napkin when you eat. I’ll tell you openly and honestly, because I’m that kind of person, that I was a little bit behind in the culture department. It’s not that I don’t admire culture. I’ve learned to recognize it whenever it comes on TV, except sometimes I change the channel by accident. So I admire culture, as I said, and one day I sat on the couch and thought about what it would be like to be cultured myself. I started to imagine myself as somebody who might use a napkin, but I fell asleep and spilled my potato chips.

So I admired the idea of being cultured, which I already mentioned, because I noticed cultured people get shorter jail sentences, they own toothbrushes, and they don’t have potato chips mashed into their couches. Since I wanted the quickest way to become cultured, I decided to go to a poetry reading. In my town there are people who write poetry. Some of them are poets who stroll through the floral bowers of linguistic cultivation, noting the nuances of the human condition, and some of them are teenagers who write about how everything sucks. Another thing we have in my town, besides poets, is a coffee house called Dog of Woe. Once a month the poets go there and read each other their poems. So I admired culture, as I already told you, and I decided to go to a poetry reading.

Now that I had committed myself to culture, I thought about what to wear in my new life of refinement and good taste. Behind the TV I found my “Ram it with the Sex Pistols” T-shirt. This was a famous musical group, and music is cultural, so I decided to wear that T-shirt, as it would show people my level of culture. I wondered about wearing a hat, and I tried to remember what cultured people on TV wear. The only hat I owned was a Pittsburgh Steelers baseball cap, but I had dropped it in the bathtub when I was washing my dog, and it never seemed as good after that. I decided not to wear the hat. I don’t think cultured people smell like dogs.

At the coffee house people were drinking coffee and eating cookies. I like coffee, I thought, I’m glad, I thought, I can still drink coffee as a cultured person. I went to order a cup. “I’ll have a medium coffee,” I said to the kid behind the counter. “A metrovilla?” the kid asked me. “No,” I said, “a medium coffee.” “That’s a metrovilla,” he said. “What’s a metrovilla?” I asked. “I just want coffee.” “I mean the size,” he said. “I told you that,” I replied. “A medium. And I’ll have a granola earth cookie.” He turns around and yells to somebody “one metrovilla!”

I took my medium metrovilla and granola earth cookie and found a seat where most of the tables were between me and the microphone. I know by now you’re already thinking I seemed pretty cultured just for being there, and thank you for your supportive attitude, but I wanted to observe. I was there as a student of refinement, of classiness, of savoir faire. I looked at the next table and saw a girl with pink hair. Say, I thought to myself, say, what’s that about? I wasn’t sure I wanted to dye my hair pink. You’re probably thinking the same thing. But maybe you’re not that cultured. I don’t know. Anyway, pink isn’t really my color. I’m more of a mauve guy. At a table near the pink-haired girl was an elderly man wearing a hat and holding a pipe between his teeth. Damn it, I thought, I knew I should have worn a hat. I wondered if I should buy a pipe. In a few minutes, other people bought coffee and granola earth cookies and sat down. It was a very cultured crowd. Almost everyone had a napkin.

I was ready for the poetry. That was why I came, as I told you, to expand my world by strolling through the gardens of verbiage and verbalness. Finally a skinny young man got up and went to the microphone. “Welcome to the poetry coffee house,” he said. “As most of you know, we do this as an open mike, so whoever has something to read can come up here and share. I know some people are ready to go, so I’m going to sit down and let them come on up.”

Another young man went to the mike. He looked at the floor and never looked up. “Rain in the Dark” he said. I think. I think he said “Rain in the Dark”. He said it quickly and not very loud. He read the poem fast, too, and didn’t speak up, and kind of mumbled, and didn’t really stand near the microphone. I had no idea what he was saying. It sounded like he kept repeating “leave my heart for dead”. When he finished reading, he scowled at us. I wondered what we had done. Maybe we were supposed to apologize, but I didn’t want to go first.

After the angry poet, a middle-aged woman went to the microphone. “This is a poem about my sister as a little girl,” she said. She got serious to read.

You knew the way
To play all day
You were the one
Who loved the sun
In childhood bliss
With summer’s kiss
You loved to sing
And dance in rings

While she was reading I looked around the room and I noticed a woman in a really tight sweater, which made me spill my coffee. Since I had to get up and get napkins to clean it up I missed part of the poem. I must have missed the good part.

Another woman got up to read. “My current series of poems grows out of the soil of central Pennsylvania,” she said. Oh, good, I thought, poems about gardening. She started reading:

As I drive past Amish fields
I sense the secular seeds,
Of austere paternal religion
Planted in columbine soil,
Nourished on the breast of Gaya,
The all-mother to all of us.
Verdant points on promising fields
Match points of light
In the stellar mirror…

Whoa, I thought, we’re all here for poetry. If she doesn’t cut that out people are going to start leaving. She kept reading, but nobody left. I looked around. Was the tall man putting on his coat? No, he was looking for a pen. Was the red-haired woman picking up her purse? No, she was looking for a tissue to dry her eyes. I felt like crying myself. Maybe this is cultured, I thought. I wasn’t happy about it.

Fifteen poets read their poems that evening. I think it was fifteen. When it goes over ten I get kind of lost, but you probably do too, so you’ll understand. Every poem I heard I felt more and more like crying. I couldn’t understand anything. I thought I’d never be cultured.

Then the last man got up. He was wearing a Sex Pistols T shirt. Say, I thought, say, I like this guy. “My poem,” he said, “is called I Love Beer.” I yelled out “hey! hey!” People turned to look at me, so I knew they liked beer, too.

The guy in the cultured T shirt read:

When my girlfriend won’t shut up
When my boss acts like a dick
There’s nothing like a beer.
When it’s hot outside
When it’s cold outside
There’s nothing like a beer.

He kept reading. It was a good poem. I could see everybody else thought that, too. People were shaking their heads, wondering why did we have to wait until the very end for the good one. Seemed like everybody was wondering that. I left the poetry reading feeling good to know that my level of culture was increasing. I thought I should celebrate, so I went home and drank five beers. With corn chips, because potato chips are so…you know.


David Hutto grew up on a farm in Georgia where he learned that animal noises are generally better when performed by the animals themselves. In his career as a writer, he has devoted himself to eventually using the entire alphabet, including letters that don’t seem to have that much function, really, like Q and Z. He has also been quizzically investigating the humor potential in weather diversity, so far with only shady results. Website: www.davidhutto.com

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