In almost Spring,

Bud
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 the 1999 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

Groundhog Day

snowy-farm
The automatic radio
wakes me with a blizzard

closing schools
across five distant states,

where farmers with hungry livestock
chop icy bales of hay

with chain saws.
Reports quick and cold

thud against the almost-dawn
like a rancher’s shovel

on the carcasses of drift-buried cattle.
I think I could not open my eyes to it

without warm, burrowed sleep
at the end of the day

to melt away doing and duty
like frost,

without a brilliant morning-moon
in a still-dark sky

to plant stars 
in the crystals of the snow.

Copyright 1999 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2000 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

“Adam’s House”

adams-house
Edward Hopper lightly sketched an ordinary white house,
the one on the hill above Gloucester, the one
with the ornamental overhang. Then the artist

brushed on watercolors to enliven the sky and shadows,
the street and fences, the shutters at every window.
The building’s light-washed gaze shuttles your eye

to a high wooden pole with its crossarms and insulators.
Let’s not speculate why there are no birds on the wires
and no people in the street: the picture’s not meaning—

it’s moment. At Gloucester, he said, when everyone else
would be painting ships at the waterfront
I’d just go around looking at houses—

structures that became radiant matter-of-fact
like the one on the hill with the sun’s weightless palm
shining on its face.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers

Afternoon at the Airshow

B17  Catwalk
I went to Truax Field to see a display of World War II planes. It was a chilly day, but a good-sized crowd turned out.

The centerpiece of the show was a B-17 Flying Fortress, a huge bomber that was essential to the Allied war effort. Visitors were invited to climb a metal ladder into the plane’s flight deck where the pilot and copilot sat.

Moving aft through the fuselage, I maneuvered my way along a narrow catwalk in the bomb bay. Next came the radio compartment and the waist-gunners’ machine guns. Looking down, I could see the metal dome that served as the entrance to the ball-turret suspended beneath the plane.

airshow-2
The airman at that station could swivel the turret around and fire machine guns at enemy fighters. But he also was vulnerable to being shot at. If you saw the movie, Memphis Belle, you might remember Sean Aston’s character hanging in the air beneath the plane. If you know Randall Jarrell’s famous poem, you can imagine the danger.

            I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
            When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Exiting the bomber by another metal ladder, I was greeted by a short, white-haired man standing on the tarmac. I checked out the underside of the plane where the ball-turret hung like a metal scrotum. The space inside was so minimal it was hard to imagine anyone squeezing in there.

B17 Outside
I turned back to the white-haired usher. I commented that only a small crewman could fit in that turret. The usher, who stood the same 5’ 5” as me, nodded.

“You and I would have worked that position.”

Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers

Autumn

autumn-tree
Autumn is an animal, gnawing
at sunlight from both ends of the day.
His hide turns yellow in patches
as he leaps from tree to tree, howling
and thrashing in the branches,
frightening birds into the air
and away. The tree limbs bend,
making no more effort
than falling asleep,
but he cannot help struggling—
this desperate beast,
who, for all his fury, must
drop to the ground in the end
and become the cold, white 
bones of winter.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers

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 the 2006 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. During 2014, the poem was
displayed in the Reflections: Madison photography and poetry exhibit
at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

My Voice

Grays
I always sound hoarse.
Like a radio half-tuned to the station.
It's hard to make myself heard.

I repeat myself often, every day.
It's hard to make myself heard.
That's the voice I have.

I can’t converse in noisy places.
Don't ask me to speak to a group.
I'd rather not talk at all.

It's hard to make myself heard.
There's a furrow in my vocal folds.
There's a flaw that can’t be fixed.

You might not hear my hello.
What can I say?
That's the voice I have.

Copyright 2008 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Summer 2016 issue of Word Fountain