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

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Sean and Brawnie’s Tag and Tee

Chesty Tee

Brawnie sat on the living room couch, flipping through the glossy pages of Men’s Fitness.

In the bedroom, Sean stretched a new fitted sheet onto their bed. His sudden laughter brought Brawnie to the bedroom door. 

“What’s funny?”

“The good people who designed this sheet,” Sean replied. “Look: the shorter end has a little white tag labelled TOP OR BOTTOM.”

Brawnie stared at Sean quizzically. “Do we really need instructions to put on a sheet correctly?”

Sean laughed again. “That wasn’t my first thought.”

“You’re buying the sheets next time,” Brawnie insisted. “That clerk laughed at me.”

Sean chortled. “You know, it did sound like you inquired about fetid sheets.”

Brawnie rolled his eyes.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure that clerk liked you,” Sean continued. “He stared at your chest the whole time.”

Sean smoothed the wrinkles from the sheet with his palm. He turned and rested his hand on his boyfriend’s torso.

“He probably wondered how you fetid these pecs into your tee shirt.”

Brawnie blushed. He peeled off the garment in question, and gave Sean a waterfall of kisses, head to heel, from top to bottom.

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers

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

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

Sean and Brawnie’s Bubbly Breakfast

One Wine Glass

“I wish you wouldn’t read at the table,” Brawnie said, chewing a morsel of sourdough bagel. 

“Listen to this,” Sean replied. “If you could travel through space at the speed of light, time would stop.” 

He aimed his fork at the mushroom omelet on his plate. “You wouldn’t experience time at all.”

Brawnie thought a moment, drinking the last of his sparkling white wine. “In that formulation, you wouldn’t be habitually late.”

“And your pecs would be perfect forever,” Sean quipped. 

“Speaking of late,” he quickly continued, “why do you think our Christmas cactus waited for February to finally bloom?”

“Is that why we’re having Prosecco for breakfast?”

“If you need a reason to celebrate,” Sean suggested, “that’s as good as any, don’t you think?”

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers

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.