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
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
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
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