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
I keep a wooden Buddha by my bed.
I don't know who carefully carved
the folds of his robe, the curve of his
lips, the eyes soft-closed. I don’t know
whose face is actually displayed.
I do know the woodworker sanded
the surface smoother than any life
could ever be. And I know the carver
is an artist: this cross-legged figure
has been transformed into a small, steady
flame. Sometimes its quiet calm
seeps into my skin.
Copyright 2007 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2010 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar
The book's original cover had been replaced
by a plain gray cloth binding. I remember
finding it in the school library on the last-
part-of-the-alphabet shelf. I remember
devouring the adventures of two Earthmen exploring
tunnels and caves beneath another world.
I was ten, and that was the first novel
I didn't want to put down.
Nowadays I own a paperback edition with yellowed
pages found in a second-hand bookstore. I still
imagine a journey through "that enormous
void in which all light and life and being
is but the thin and vanishing splendour
of a falling star," a journey
with The First Men in the Moon
as told by the man who made the Morlocks.
Copyright 2014 by Brian Dean Powers
These fields that should feed us
ignite, the wind-twisted wheat
barbed with flames. These roads
that should take us home
go to nothing but fists of gray smoke
punching bruised and cindered clouds.
There's no escape for the black birds
burned to animate ash, crows
like stitches ripped from the sky.
Two fields like lungs struggle to breathe
in the heat. Listen how the air carries
the crackling language of mindless fire.
Copyright 2013 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2015 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar
“What you are first able to write on the page, whether the writing comes easily or with difficulty, is not likely to be close to a finished poem…. What matters is that you consider what you have on the page as an unfinished piece of work that now requires your best conscious and patient appraisal.”
“In my own work, I usually revise through forty or fifty drafts of a poem before I begin to feel content with it. Other poets take longer. Have some lines come to you, a few times, nearly perfect, as easily as a dream arranges itself during sleep? That’s luck. That’s grace. But this is the usual way: hard work, hard work, hard work. This is the way it is done.”
From A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
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 the 2016 Wisconsin Poets' Calendar