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.

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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 the 2005 Wisconsin Poets' Calendar

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 the 2014 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

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

A Still Life by Van Gogh

Still LIfe
Among the purple irises, one stalk
is bent to breaking; several slender

blue-green leaves lift
through a galaxy of billowing blossoms.

One thing rises while another
declines, and who can say why—

isn’t that the essential gesture
of everything planted here? I know nothing

with any certainty, the artist wrote,
but the sight of the stars

makes me dream. In a vase of rough
baked earth, imagine an ennobling

of all that stands from day to day,
and all that falls aside.

Copyright 2000 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2016 Wisconsin Poets' Calendar