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

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