Whale Koan

Whale 1

Where would the great whale
send its deeply-voiced sounding 
without an ocean?

Copyright 2017 by Brian Dean Powers

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Listening to Cicadas

Tree in Sun

August already: time to see summer
before it sinks. Beneath bountiful branches

I stand and watch the sunlight soak
through green and breathing leaves. All 

around, like fog in the trees, alarm clocks
ring beneath male cicada wings. And look: 

a current of slick, black ants flows
down the dark drive. Sometimes

I stop to hear the waterfall gushing 
from my window fan, and sometimes

I want to pour it all into words,
lingering to love what can’t be kept.

Copyright 2000 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2002 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

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

Cicadas

Lakeshore Path
The rapid ratcheting
seems everywhere above me, lacing
the treetops into a single wordless voice.
Along the lakeshore path where I run,
the dog-day cicadas in the high branches
pulse like the sputtering sprinklers
on the lawns back home.
I like this dirt road because
it’s easy on my knees, because
I’m far from the voices
that would untie me from myself
and have me follow.
I like these trees that shade me,
they seem well-knit
with all the things around them—
the moss, the ants, birds
I can and cannot name,
the pebbles that stick in my shoes.
Maybe the cicadas look with pleasure, as I do, up
into the green, sunlit leaves.
Maybe their calling begins in the blood 
that is always threading
through their beautiful bodies.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2007 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

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

Early Riser

Purple Crocus
The crocus leaps
into its life
as soon as the March
melt begins.
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
slender stem
and purple petals
ascend defenseless
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 the 2014 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar