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


Van Gogh’s Bedroom


The artist returned to the Yellow House in Arles
after painting all day in the fields. Nature
stuck to him like a burr as he walked into his bedroom.
Pale-blue sky seeped into his walls, and the outstretched
wings of crows slipped into the window’s
dark sash-bars. Sunflowers settled
into the center-woven seats of the ocher chairs,
blossoming over the worn path of earth-hued floorboards.
A field of poppies managed to inhabit his red blanket,
but not even nature could make the room contain
the artist’s seismic swirls of moon and stars. 

Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain

April Run

Three Shoes
We’re running unrushed
	on twigs and green
		seeds from the hail

storm last night.
	Three pair of shoes
		crunch and crackle

on the pavement, almost
	in unison.
		Both my companions

have qualified 
	for Boston. One
		seldom mentions it.

The other
	finds an eyelet
		in every conversation

in which to lace it.
	But for now we’re
		here in Madison

—three pair of shoes
		a patch of gravel,

	the first dandelions.
		To the planet

in an anthill, it’s
	sad how much damage
		one shoe can do.

Copyright 2010 by Brian Dean Powers

Groundhog Day

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

“Adam’s House”

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


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.