Orion’s Belt

Orion Constellation

They seem together
from where I stand:
three stars, a row

on a flat, black sky.
My guide book tells me otherwise—
they are light-years apart,

deep, deeper, deepest
into the dark.
I marvel at the stars,

how they burn like beacons
on distant, unreachable shores,
how the isolation

doesn’t diminish the shine.
I studied their names
when I was a boy,

stared at them
from my bedroom window
in a middle-class home

that must have looked fine—
station wagon in the garage,
closets of ironed pants and shirts,

the threesome eating dinner
in a spotless kitchen.
But there were light-years

between our plates, cold space
between our seats in the car.
There was no guide

for that constellation.
So I learned distance.
I drifted away.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain

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My Voice

Grays
I always sound hoarse.
Like a radio half-tuned to the station.
It's hard to make myself heard.

I repeat myself often, every day.
It's hard to make myself heard.
That's the voice I have.

I can’t converse in noisy places.
Don't ask me to speak to a group.
I'd rather not talk at all.

It's hard to make myself heard.
There's a furrow in my vocal folds.
There's a flaw that can’t be fixed.

You might not hear my hello.
What can I say?
That's the voice I have.

Copyright 2008 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Summer 2016 issue of Word Fountain

First Dance with a Man

Couple
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 the 2013 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

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.