James with His Prize-Winning Chicken

Farm Boys
He smiles into the camera
    from a happy moment
        in 1953,
            where he is ten and slim

and proud of the ribbon
    he won at the fair.
        He crouches in a clearing,
            by a line of trees and a pickup,

with the celebrated chicken
    perched precariously on his lap.
        For an instant,
            the photograph suspends

the white bird’s
    jerky peck-and-strut,
        the swaying tree tops,
            the boy about to stand

into his manhood.
    There he will find his new voice,
        his place at the steering wheel,
            his passion

for men’s bodies.
    And there, when his neighbors 
        approve of his poultry
            more than his choice of friends,

he will find
    that every prize and compliment
        is an opinion about what's good —
            and most won’t fit a James

who wants to love chickens
    and trucks
        and men,
            and be happy.

Copyright 1998 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the October 1998 issue of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change

This poem considers the photo on the dust jacket of Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest by Will Fellows. The book is available from the University of Wisconsin Press.

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4 thoughts on “James with His Prize-Winning Chicken

  1. This is really nice – I’ve fiddled with some flash fiction from photo prompts, and found it really satisfying. It’s very cool and creative to paint such a complete picture of a person’s life around an instant in time.

    Liked by 1 person

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