Writing My Will

Crocus 3-4-21

We sat in the long, rectangular room
with the long, rectangular table topped

with faux marble. Outside the eighth-floor window,
we could see the frozen, snow-covered lake.

The serious young lawyer wrote my responses
in little scribbles to inscribe my will.

I watched words and numbers gather in display
on his snowy-white pages, my life seemingly

reduced to something small and slight.
I went home feeling diminished, home to a night’s

restless sleep. Of course, March will return
to raise the golden crocuses with their rich

inner lives. And if indeed I have few assets
in the companies of commerce

and the company of others,
why should I let that freeze my will?

Copyright 2020 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Winter/Spring 2021 issue of Bramble
Photo by the author

Listening to Cicadas


August already: time to see summer
before it sinks. Beneath bountiful branches

I stand and watch the sunlight soak
through green and breathing leaves. All 

around, like fog in the trees, alarm clocks
ring beneath male cicada wings. And look: 

a current of slick, black ants flows
down the dark drive. Sometimes

I stop to hear the waterfall gushing 
from my window fan, and sometimes

I want to pour it all into words,
lingering to love what can’t be kept.

Copyright 2000 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2002 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
Photo by the author

Van Gogh’s Bedroom

Van Gogh's Bedroom
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

In almost Spring,

Crocus
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.
	One bright 
		and gusty afternoon
		
in winter’s last days
	will break
		the thin cataract of ice
		
left on the surface
	of the lake.
		The fist

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
	singing warmth
		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

How I Came to Live in a Palace

Kaisersaal
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

The Run to Picnic Point

Point Postcard
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

Buddha Carving
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

First Dance with a Man

Dancing
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