Honoring Gay Olympian, Eric Radford

In every Olympics, I seem to gravitate toward one standout athlete. This year it’s Canadian pairs skater, Eric Radford.

In pairs skating, it’s common to describe the man as a stem and the woman as a flower. But Eric is more like a tall and solid redwood.

According to Outsports, before Radford “no elite figure skater on the world stage has ever come out publicly at the height of his competitive career.”

Radford is the first openly gay man to win a gold medal in a winter Olympics. He also goes home with a bronze medal as well. He won a silver medal in 2014.

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Ursula Le Guin’s Challenge to Writers

Ursula K. Le Guin passed away January 22, 2018. She was one of my favorite authors, writing science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy and poetry.

I devoured the Earthsea series. I admired her incredible story of gender-shifting people in The Left Hand of Darkness.

I’ve read The Lathe of Heaven half a dozen times at least. In that novel, a man has “effective dreams” that change reality retroactively. It’s a story about the limits of meddling with the world, built on the ideas of Taoism.

“I think hard times are coming,” she predicted, “when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now.”

Those times are here.

A Community Chorus

Snowy Pine

Each of the men
wore a white shirt
with a silver tie
and a black sport jacket.

Fresh wet snow mounded
the evergreens and stair-
railings outside the hall. 
Walking single file into

the auditorium, the chorus
—thirty novice volunteers,
assembled themselves 
on a three-tiered riser.

With almost flawless harmony
the singers began by wondering
whether old acquaintance
be forgot and never brought

to mind. A soloist
came forward from
the front row, and
—well, he had trouble

staying on the intended
pitch path. But
how could we be harsh
when he so cheerfully

suggested we drink
a cup of kindness?
When he stepped back
the group-voice

returned to smooth out
individual flaws.
Thus, for an hour or so
in the bleak midwinter

of snow on snow,
snow on snow,
the whole
outshone its parts.

Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers

Can You Say It in Just Two Lines?

Blake Manuscript
When I first started writing poetry seriously, it took years to learn how to make longer poems with fully developed ideas. Lately I’ve been interested in the opposite challenge: how much can a poet pack into a couplet?

Here are some examples, some of which you will probably recognize. I’m also posting one of my own.

Richard Wilbur included this work in his collection, Mayflies. Although the poem was published in the 21st century, it’s written in rhyming iambic pentameter.

     A Short History

     Corn planted us; tamed cattle made us tame.
     Thence hut and citadel and kingdom came.

This example by Mark Doty is from his book, School of the Arts.

     Shahid’s Couplet

     Your old kitchen, dear, on Bleeker: sugar, dates, black tea.
     Your house, then ours. Anyone’s now. Memory’s furious land.

Walt Whitman put this little poem in the 1871 edition of Leaves of Grass.

     The Untold Want

     The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
     Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

This famous poem by Ezra Pound was written in 1912.

     In a Station of the Metro

     The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
     Petals on a wet, black bough.

This tiny poem with the enormous title appears in Mary Oliver’s Redbird.

     Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to 
     Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

     That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
     But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

This is my first attempt at a two-liner.

     [Broken] [Shine]

     I don’t know who broke my bedroom window.
     Sunlight blazes the long edge of cracked glass.

So what do you think? Do these poems feel satisfying, or do you want more? Is it fair to say this brief form sometimes requires a good title in order to succeed?

Listening to Cicadas

Tree in Sun

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 the 2002 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

Orion’s Belt

Orion Constellation

They seem together
from where I stand:
three stars, a row

on a flat, black sky.
My guide book tells me otherwise—
they are light-years apart,

deep, deeper, deepest
into the dark.
I marvel at the stars,

how they burn like beacons
on distant, unreachable shores,
how the isolation

doesn’t diminish the shine.
I studied their names
when I was a boy,

stared at them
from my bedroom window
in a middle-class home

that must have looked fine—
station wagon in the garage,
closets of ironed pants and shirts,

the threesome eating dinner
in a spotless kitchen.
But there were light-years

between our plates, cold space
between our seats in the car.
There was no guide

for that constellation.
So I learned distance.
I drifted away.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain