Sean and Brawnie Serve Soup and Shakespeare at Their Summer Nuptials

Couple

For Brawnie, love was agreeing to speak in front of two hundred guests despite his discomfort.

Before the officiant declared them husband and husband, Brawnie began his recitation to Sean.

          Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
          Like to the lark at break of day arising
          From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

Sean felt honored that Brawnie was speaking Mr. Shakespeare’s lines from memory.

          For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings
          That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

When Brawnie finished, Sean told the crowd how he learned the value of seasonings from his mother.

How her salmon soup consisted of nothing but warm milk with a can of salmon dumped in.

How, as a child, he always poured his portion down the drain after everyone left the table.

How he would strive to spice his marriage to Brawnie with humor and patience, and the occasional spritz of whipped cream.

That evening, Brawnie loosened his tie, shucked his shoes and socks, and flopped down prone on their bed. When Sean came to the bedroom door, he wondered if Brawnie’s well-developed pecs could actually be amplifying his impressive snoring.

For Sean, standing in the doorway, love was letting his new husband sleep off a stressful day, knowing they had already arrived at heaven’s gate.

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by Melanie Villeneuve at unsplash.com

How I Came to Live in a Palace

Kaisersaal
In my fourth-year high school German class, the teacher decided 
it wasn't enough just to learn a language. She wanted her students 
to know something about the people and culture that employ it. 

She assigned us to write a one-page theme about a specific 
person or place. I remembered a color photograph in an art 
history book from another class. It was a picture of the Kaisersaal,   

an eighteenth century palace ballroom. The floor is an oval chessboard 
of shiny tiles, bordered by twenty carved marble columns spaced
around rose-gray walls. Between the various pillars 

are wooden doors; a fireplace; tall, arched windows; paintings 
and statues in wall niches. The teacher praised my description. 
It was so real to her in its details, she wondered 

if I had actually visited the hall. The vaulted ceiling, with its huge 
glass chandeliers, is painted in white and pastels with gold filigree 
seemingly flung from a Tilt-A-Whirl. Frescos top the dome with blue sky 

that seems to release us into the open air. Flags wave, angels 
and cherubs hover before sunlit clouds, warriors and gods 
gaze thoughtfully upon us. Kings and queens conceal their bodies

in layers of ornate fabrics, even as Apollo proudly displays 
his muscular bare chest. Fifty years later, I've forgotten most 
of my German. I remember that lavish ballroom only by revisiting 

the art book colorplate. Its extravagance still grates against 
my preference for the plain and simple. Fifty years later 
I remember that essay as an invitation to the palace

of the imagination. For an immature, inept kid who was 
uncomfortable and ridiculed in the social world, it offered 
the rich and vaulting universe where I have lived ever since.

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by the author

Sean and Brawnie’s Sunday Brunch

Breakfast

“You’re not drinking your coffee,” Sean observed.

Brawnie unfolded his napkin and wiped his lips.

“Will you marry me if I’m not religious?” he asked.

Sean recognized this as another round of Brawnie’s perverse variation on Twenty Questions.

“As long as you acknowledge Tina Turner,” Sean replied, “as patron saint of survivors.”

Brawnie helped himself to a forkful of Sean’s omelet. 

“Will you marry me if I’m dismissed as heteronormative?”

“That,” Sean scoffed, “is just another label some people use to shame others for who they are.”

Sean helped himself to a taste of his boyfriend’s huevos rancheros.

“And you know, I do love your extra-normative pecs.”

Brawnie blushed, and pressed on with his game.

“Will you marry me if I forget to chill the chardonnay?”

Sean cued up his best Susan Hayward.

“Broadway,” he began with mock intensity, “doesn’t go for booze and dope.”

Brawnie laughed and lifted his coffee cup, revealing a plain, gold ring on the saucer below.

“Will you marry me?”

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by Heather Ford at unsplash.com

Sean and Brawnie Ringin’ in the Rain

Rings

Sean stood at the kitchen window, watching drizzle slide down the pane.

“What a lovely mornin’,” he chirped.

“Thank you, Debbie Reynolds,” Brawnie replied, picking up a dish towel to dry a freshly washed wine glass.

Sean continued scrubbing crusty residue off last night’s dinner plates.

“I wonder,” he asked hesitantly, “how a guy would find out someone’s ring size without asking?”

Brawnie raised his eyebrows. 

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

“I mean,” Sean explained, “if you wanted the perfect ending to your musical.…”

Brawnie gulped lukewarm coffee from his mug. 

“I suppose the guy could just keep tap dancing around the question,” he suggested. 

“Then again,” he continued, looking out the rainy window, “if I were Gene Kelly, it’s possible I already would have gone off and bought a ring for my darling Debbie.”

Sean smirked. He placed a handful of cooking utensils in their drawer.

“What a lovely mornin’.”

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by Sandy Millar at unsplash.com

Can You Say It in Just Two Lines?

Blake Manuscript
When I first started writing poetry seriously, it took years to learn how to make longer poems with fully developed ideas. Lately I’ve been interested in the opposite challenge: how much can a poet pack into a couplet?

Here are some examples, some of which you will probably recognize. I’m also posting one of my own.

Richard Wilbur included this work in his collection, Mayflies. Although the poem was published in the 21st century, it’s written in rhyming iambic pentameter.

     A Short History

     Corn planted us; tamed cattle made us tame.
     Thence hut and citadel and kingdom came.

This example by Mark Doty is from his book, School of the Arts.

     Shahid’s Couplet

     Your old kitchen, dear, on Bleeker: sugar, dates, black tea.
     Your house, then ours. Anyone’s now. Memory’s furious land.

Walt Whitman put this little poem in the 1871 edition of Leaves of Grass.

     The Untold Want

     The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
     Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

This famous poem by Ezra Pound was written in 1912.

     In a Station of the Metro

     The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
     Petals on a wet, black bough.

This tiny poem with the enormous title appears in Mary Oliver’s Redbird.

     Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to 
     Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

     That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
     But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

This is my first attempt at a two-liner.

     [Broken] [Shine]

     I don’t know who broke my bedroom window.
     Sunlight blazes the long edge of cracked glass.

So what do you think? Do these poems feel satisfying, or do you want more? Is it fair to say this brief form sometimes requires a good title in order to succeed?

[Broken] [Shine] Copyright 2017 by Brian Dean Powers
Public Domain photo at commons.wikimedia.org

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.
Public Domain photo at commons.wikimedia.org

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
Photo by the author