Afternoon at the Airshow

B17  Catwalk
I went to Truax Field to see a display of World War II planes. It was a chilly day, but a good-sized crowd turned out.

The centerpiece of the show was a B-17 Flying Fortress, a huge bomber that was essential to the Allied war effort. Visitors were invited to climb a metal ladder into the plane’s flight deck where the pilot and copilot sat.

Moving aft through the fuselage, I maneuvered my way along a narrow catwalk in the bomb bay. Next came the radio compartment and the waist-gunners’ machine guns. Looking down, I could see the metal dome that served as the entrance to the ball-turret suspended beneath the plane.

airshow-2
The airman at that station could swivel the turret around and fire machine guns at enemy fighters. But he also was vulnerable to being shot at. If you saw the movie, Memphis Belle, you might remember Sean Aston’s character hanging in the air beneath the plane. If you know Randall Jarrell’s famous poem, you can imagine the danger.

            I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
            When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Exiting the bomber by another metal ladder, I was greeted by a short, white-haired man standing on the tarmac. I checked out the underside of the plane where the ball-turret hung like a metal scrotum. The space inside was so minimal it was hard to imagine anyone squeezing in there.

B17 Outside
I turned back to the white-haired usher. I commented that only a small crewman could fit in that turret. The usher, who stood the same 5’ 5” as me, nodded.

“You and I would have worked that position.”

Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers

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

The Run to Picnic Point

Point Postcard
August ends, humid and hot
but that's not stopping you from hauling

yourself up hill after hill. Off-road,
across the grassy flat of a football field,

you stride with light, silent steps —
though your pace in this heat

is more jog than dash.
The run grows in its slow

and winding way, flourishing at last
on the path to Picnic Point. The trodden

ground is dappled, sunlight blazing radiant trails
through the leaves overhead. The breeze

sprays you with the fragrance of apples,
strokes your sweat-slicked skin.

You dodge and dart over tree roots
and rocks, breathing easy, immersed

in the spread of an incandescent day.
Sunlight runs among the treetops on photon feet.

Copyright 2004 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in Echolocations: Poets Map Madison by Cowfeather Press,
and in the 2006 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. During 2014, the poem was
displayed in the Reflections: Madison photography and poetry exhibit
at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

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

I Keep a Wooden Buddha

Buddha Carving
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

“First Men in the Moon”

First Men
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

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