Serenata d’estate (Summer Serenade)

Ripples

The park trees are ringed with concentric
circles inscribed by a riding mower. Half

the grass is green, half is burned-
out brown. The beach is closed, clogged

with weeds and toxic blue-green algae.
A little light rain draws overlapping 

circles on the surface of the lake.
The drops play a serenade of summer

both sweet and sour. Sweet for the season
of shorts and T-shirts I longed 

for all winter. Sour for carrying me
within spitting distance of seventy.

The rain passes. The lake shines
like a smooth, oval stone.

Copyright 2020 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by Jan Fillem at unsplash.com

Sean and Brawnie Celebrate Their First Anniversary Despite These Virus-Times

Mask

Returning from his morning run, Sean found a pair of hand-sewn face masks hanging on the handle of the front door.

“Those are from Patty our neighbor,” Brawnie told his husband. “I think she appreciates my keeping tabs on her, even at a distance.”

The boys wore their new apparel at the grocery store, where Sean works as one of the managers. His colleagues greeted them with good-natured chuckles when they saw the matching plaid masks. 

“That’s okay,” Sean quipped. “Nobody noticed my hair’s getting longer and kind of raggedy around the edges.” Sean thought a moment. “Your buzz cut will take months to grow out. So you win that one, I guess.”

Back home, Brawnie cleared out a corner of the basement and unpacked his old barbells and dumbbells and bench. “With the gym closed indefinitely,” he explained with a hint of irritation, “I have to make my own.” 

“Whereas I can just go outside and run,” Sean said with a smirk. “I think I win that one.”

Sean and Brawnie were married a year ago. They could not have known back then they would have to celebrate their first anniversary at home, socially distanced from the world. Brawnie made Thai Green Curry for dinner from a recipe Patty had emailed them.

“I don’t know which wine goes with curry,” he said.

“No one does,” Sean replied. “That cabernet you’re pouring is just fine by me.”

Sean thought a moment, chewing a cube of overcooked tofu. “So many little things don’t much matter any more.”

Copyright 2020 by Brian Dean Powers
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

The Gestures with Which You Honor It

Jade
The woody stem
	was but four crooked
		inches long, bearing

eight oval leaves like
	blades of oars.
		I found that sprig of jade

on the hallway carpet,
	took it back to my apartment
		and harbored it in a jar of water.

Weeks passed. Roots
	grew. I gave the plant
		a pot of soil

and a spot by a sunny
	south-facing window.
		It would not have mattered

to the world, I think,
	if that little remnant
		of life had dried up

and died. 
	Weeks passed. One morning
		when I awoke

and was planted again
	in a budding day,
		I noticed two new

shiny and smooth
	leaves of jade
		turned about into the sun.

Copyright 2018 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by the author

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

One Warm and Sunny Saturday, Mid-March

Lake Ice
Everything wants to wander. Runoff 
from the roof pleasantly pads down

and out the metal eaves in fluid boots.
I myself meander where plows once piled

a snowstorm, where thin rivers
now glaze the pavement.
 
Everything wanders away when it must.
Winter's final footprints stand scattered 

across the landscape as clots of blackened snow.
My aimless walk takes me to the lake,

where the last thin layer of ice has cracked
into thousands of shards, all of them jostling

against each other in the undulating waves.
People stop to hear this music

only March can make. 
For one afternoon, the lake surface sizzles.

Copyright 2010 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2011 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
Photo by Marcus Lofvenberg at unsplash.com

Sean and Brawnie and the Mathematics of Matrimony

Two Rings

Standing in the bathroom doorway, Sean listened to the out-of-tune voice. His husband had not mentioned these morning song-stylings before they moved in together.

Somehow I can’t understand how one and one make one.

Brawnie stood shirtless at the sink, shaving. “I like to cuddle near you, and listen to you lie,” he sang, about a quarter-tone off the intended melody. 

But get that marryin’ out of yer head, I’ll be a bachelor till I die.”

“Trying to tell me something?” Sean inquired with a smirk. “Hank Williams was hardly the paragon of marriage.”

Brawnie laughed. “He did marry Audrey twice, you know.”

“And she divorced him twice,” Sean replied. He surveyed his husband’s shoulders, admiring the well-developed delts and traps.

Brawnie made a quick pivot, grabbing Sean by the waist and lifting him up. 

I don’t mind keeping comp’ny with the apple of my eye,” Brawnie sang.

Sean rubbed a dab of shaving cream off Brawnie’s earlobe. They stood there, face to face, one man firmly planted and the other a little aloft. 

Standing both together and apart, neither man was much concerned whether one and one make one.

Copyright 2020 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by Luigi Pozzoli at unsplash.com

Sean and Brawnie Happily Homebound on New Year’s Eve

Snow

“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

Sean and Brawnie Serve Soup and Shakespeare at Their Summer Nuptials

Couple

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