The artist returned to the Yellow House in Arles
after painting all day in the fields. Nature
stuck to him like a burr as he walked into his bedroom.
Pale-blue sky seeped into his walls, and the outstretched
wings of crows slipped into the window’s
dark sash-bars. Sunflowers settled
into the center-woven seats of the ocher chairs,
blossoming over the worn path of earth-hued floorboards.
A field of poppies managed to inhabit his red blanket,
but not even nature could make the room contain
the artist’s seismic swirls of moon and stars.
Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain Public Domain photo at commons.wikimedia.org
the green fingers
of the first crocuses
begin to pierce
the cold soil,
as if reaching
toward the matted hair
of last year’s grass.
and gusty afternoon
in winter’s last days
the thin cataract of ice
left on the surface
of the lake.
on the branch-end,
as April nears,
is the spirit
of my body, too—
longing to shed
its confining glove,
to feel the sun’s breath
across my veins.
Copyright 1997 by Brian Dean Powers Published in 1999 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Photo by Tommaso Urli at unsplash.com
“Where did we put those champagne glasses?” Sean asked from the kitchen.
“Try the cupboard above the fridge,” Brawnie replied from the living room couch, where he was sprawled out watching the ten o’clock news.
The eve of the new year had begun with a strange winter rain, that late in the day became sleet, then showers of snow. The sky seemed a gray fleece blanket above flakes weightless in white spacesuits floating slowly down in calm air. The roads and walks were so dangerously iced many wisely decided to stay safely indoors.
The midnight toasts were possibly a bit tipsy.
“No more Christmas until next August!”
“Huck the folidays!”
“May you let your chest hair grow out, muscle boy.”
“And may you chuck your pile of old running shoes.”
Several hours after midnight, Sean and Brawnie were asleep together on the couch, covered by their faded Packers blanket. The room was dark, except for the Twilight Zone marathon on television. An empty bottle of Prosecco and two fancy glasses stood sentry on the coffee table before them.
Outside, galaxies of starflakes gathered under streetlamps on a cold, arbitrarily named night that was beautiful to behold.
Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers Photo by Catherine Zaidova at unsplash.com
For Brawnie, love was agreeing to speak in front of two hundred guests despite his discomfort.
Before the officiant declared them husband and husband, Brawnie began his recitation to Sean.
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
Sean felt honored that Brawnie was speaking Mr. Shakespeare’s lines from memory.
For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
When Brawnie finished, Sean told the crowd how he learned the value of seasonings from his mother.
How her salmon soup consisted of nothing but warm milk with a can of salmon dumped in.
How, as a child, he always poured his portion down the drain after everyone left the table.
How he would strive to spice his marriage to Brawnie with humor and patience, and the occasional spritz of whipped cream.
That evening, Brawnie loosened his tie, shucked his shoes and socks, and flopped down prone on their bed. When Sean came to the bedroom door, he wondered if Brawnie’s well-developed pecs could actually be amplifying his impressive snoring.
For Sean, standing in the doorway, love was letting his new husband sleep off a stressful day, knowing they had already arrived at heaven’s gate.
Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers Photo by Melanie Villeneuve at unsplash.com
In my fourth-year high school German class, the teacher decided
it wasn't enough just to learn a language. She wanted her students
to know something about the people and culture that employ it.
She assigned us to write a one-page theme about a specific
person or place. I remembered a color photograph in an art
history book from another class. It was a picture of the Kaisersaal,
an eighteenth century palace ballroom. The floor is an oval chessboard
of shiny tiles, bordered by twenty carved marble columns spaced
around rose-gray walls. Between the various pillars
are wooden doors; a fireplace; tall, arched windows; paintings
and statues in wall niches. The teacher praised my description.
It was so real to her in its details, she wondered
if I had actually visited the hall. The vaulted ceiling, with its huge
glass chandeliers, is painted in white and pastels with gold filigree
seemingly flung from a Tilt-A-Whirl. Frescos top the dome with blue sky
that seems to release us into the open air. Flags wave, angels
and cherubs hover before sunlit clouds, warriors and gods
gaze thoughtfully upon us. Kings and queens conceal their bodies
in layers of ornate fabrics, even as Apollo proudly displays
his muscular bare chest. Fifty years later, I've forgotten most
of my German. I remember that lavish ballroom only by revisiting
the art book colorplate. Its extravagance still grates against
my preference for the plain and simple. Fifty years later
I remember that essay as an invitation to the palace
of the imagination. For an immature, inept kid who was
uncomfortable and ridiculed in the social world, it offered
the rich and vaulting universe where I have lived ever since.
Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers Photo by the author
August ends, humid and hot
but that's not stopping you from hauling
yourself up hill after hill. Off-road,
across the grassy flat of a football field,
you stride with light, silent steps —
though your pace in this heat
is more jog than dash.
The run grows in its slow
and winding way, flourishing at last
on the path to Picnic Point. The trodden
ground is dappled, sunlight blazing radiant trails
through the leaves overhead. The breeze
sprays you with the fragrance of apples,
strokes your sweat-slicked skin.
You dodge and dart over tree roots
and rocks, breathing easy, immersed
in the spread of an incandescent day.
Sunlight runs among the treetops on photon feet.
Copyright 2004 by Brian Dean Powers Published in Echolocations: Poets Map Madison by Cowfeather Press, and in 2006 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. During 2014, the poem was displayed in the Reflections: Madison photography and poetry exhibit at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. Public Domain photo at commons.wikimedia.org
I keep a wooden Buddha by my bed.
I don't know who carefully carved
the folds of his robe, the curve of his
lips, the eyes soft-closed. I don’t know
whose face is actually displayed.
I do know the woodworker sanded
the surface smoother than any life
could ever be. And I know the carver
is an artist: this cross-legged figure
has been transformed into a small, steady
flame. Sometimes its quiet calm
seeps into my skin.
Copyright 2007 by Brian Dean Powers Published in 2010 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Photo by the author
The decor in Sam's Tavern doesn't scream gay : coin-operated
pool tables on one side, carpet-covered benches around
a little dance floor on the other. Tyler and his date
play several games of pinball on the machine that's free
if you know where to thump its side. Despite his distaste
for drinking, Ty tosses down two gin and tonics in a half-hour.
He isn't planning to rob the corner grocery or blow up a bridge.
He just wants to dance with a man. When Tyler was a boy, he'd seen
women polka in pairs Sunday afternoons on Dairyland Jubilee.
Men in his experience never waltzed or two-stepped together.
Now he watches the dancers at Sam's and waits for the alcohol
to find his defiance. When Tina Turner's sultry song begins to billow
from the jukebox, Ty sets aside his glass and follows his date
under the glitter ball. His movements at first are more squirm than sway
but with every twitch a Berlin Wall is coming down. Whatever you
want to do, the singer insists, is alright with me, and by last call
Tyler's relaxed and happy under the floating flecks of light.
It's not just his body that's dancing.
Copyright 2011 by Brian Dean Powers Published in the March/April 2011 issue of Our Lives magazine, and in 2013 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Photo by Thiago Barletta at unsplash.com