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 2006 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. During 2014, the poem was
displayed in the Reflections: Madison photography and poetry exhibit
at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

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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 2010 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets

First Dance with a Man

Dancing

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 in 2013 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets

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.

A Core Course for Runners

Spring Lake
I’m running the lakeside path again,
	past the last shards of March

melting along the shore. This body
	built on bone strides silently,

as light as the breath on my lips.
	An hour in, quads and calves propel

themselves, knees keep leading me forward
	and time becomes a seamless stream.

Doesn’t matter that I will never be
	much of an athlete, that I will

never run fast or win a race.
	This body is a quiet current 

of muscle and pulsing blood.
	I am altogether alive in glistening skin.

Copyright 2003 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2005 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets

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 2014 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets

The Body’s Heated Speech

Trek 1000 on Trainer

The rear wheel
	is garrulous, grinding
		against the stainless steel roller:

the bike’s inside for the winter,
	back tire suspended
		in a stationary trainer.

As the spinning
	spokes begin to blur,
		the taciturn rider

happily disappears
	into the rhythm
		of legs and breath and pulse.

His padded black shorts
	keep time with the steady
		pistoning of quads and calves,

his jersey darkens
	with the skin’s
		wet text, the body’s

heated speech so persuasive
	he returns again and again.
		It’s the thrill of being the engine

that drives the machine,
	it’s the will to last long
		like the grinding

steel-gray winter seems.
	Rising from the saddle
		to stand and hammer the pedals

full force, the rider dreams
	an approach to Sestrière’s 
		summit, dreams

a morning
	for the first crocus to crescent
		the Spring-soaked soil.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers