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.