The decor in Sam's Tavern doesn't scream gay : coin-operated
pool tables on one side, carpet-covered benches around
a little dance floor on the other. Tyler and his date
play several games of pinball on the machine that's free
if you know where to thump its side. Despite his distaste
for drinking, Ty tosses down two gin and tonics in a half-hour.
He isn't planning to rob the corner grocery or blow up a bridge.
He just wants to dance with a man. When Tyler was a boy, he'd seen
women polka in pairs Sunday afternoons on Dairyland Jubilee.
Men in his experience never waltzed or two-stepped together.
Now he watches the dancers at Sam's and waits for the alcohol
to find his defiance. When Tina Turner's sultry song begins to billow
from the jukebox, Ty sets aside his glass and follows his date
under the glitter ball. His movements at first are more squirm than sway
but with every twitch a Berlin Wall is coming down. Whatever you
want to do, the singer insists, is alright with me, and by last call
Tyler's relaxed and happy under the floating flecks of light.
It's not just his body that's dancing.
Copyright 2011 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the March/April 2011 issue of Our Lives magazine,
and in 2013 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
He smiles into the camera
from a happy moment
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
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,
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 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.
I’m running the lakeside path again,
past the last shards of March
melting along the shore. This body
built on bone strides silently,
as light as the breath on my lips.
An hour in, quads and calves propel
themselves, knees keep leading me forward
and time becomes a seamless stream.
Doesn’t matter that I will never be
much of an athlete, that I will
never run fast or win a race.
This body is a quiet current
of muscle and pulsing blood.
I am altogether alive in glistening skin.
Copyright 2003 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2005 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
The crocus leaps
into its life
as soon as the March
Nothing you can say
about cold nights
and Spring snows
will stop it.
Before the lake ice
cracks, before you
put away your gloves
and shovel, its
and purple petals
in the chill air.
—No, this plant
won't waste a moment
to grab at its chance.
Copyright 2010 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2014 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
The rear wheel
is garrulous, grinding
against the stainless steel roller:
the bike’s inside for the winter,
back tire suspended
in a stationary trainer.
As the spinning
spokes begin to blur,
the taciturn rider
into the rhythm
of legs and breath and pulse.
His padded black shorts
keep time with the steady
pistoning of quads and calves,
his jersey darkens
with the skin’s
wet text, the body’s
heated speech so persuasive
he returns again and again.
It’s the thrill of being the engine
that drives the machine,
it’s the will to last long
like the grinding
steel-gray winter seems.
Rising from the saddle
to stand and hammer the pedals
full force, the rider dreams
an approach to Sestrière’s
for the first crocus to crescent
the Spring-soaked soil.
Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers
Among the purple irises, one stalk
is bent to breaking; several slender
blue-green leaves lift
through a galaxy of billowing blossoms.
One thing rises while another
declines, and who can say why—
isn’t that the essential gesture
of everything planted here? I know nothing
with any certainty, the artist wrote,
but the sight of the stars
makes me dream. In a vase of rough
baked earth, imagine an ennobling
of all that stands from day to day,
and all that falls aside.
Copyright 2000 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2016 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets