In almost Spring,

Crocus

the green fingers
	of the first crocuses
		begin to pierce

the cold soil, 
	as if reaching
		toward the matted hair

of last year’s grass.
	One bright 
		and gusty afternoon
		
in winter’s last days
	will break
		the thin cataract of ice
		
left on the surface
	of the lake.
		The fist

on the branch-end, 
	as April nears,
		is the spirit 

of my body, too—
	longing to shed
		its confining glove,

to feel the sun’s breath
	singing warmth
		across my veins.

Copyright 1997 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 1999 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
Photo by Tommaso Urli at unsplash.com

One Warm and Sunny Saturday, Mid-March

Lake Ice

Everything wants to wander. Runoff 
from the roof pleasantly pads down

and out the metal eaves in fluid boots.
I myself meander where plows once piled

a snowstorm, where thin rivers
now glaze the pavement.
 
Everything wanders away when it must.
Winter's final footprints stand scattered 

across the landscape as clots of blackened snow.
My aimless walk takes me to the lake,

where the last thin layer of ice has cracked
into thousands of shards, all of them jostling

against each other in the undulating waves.
People stop to hear this music

only March can make. 
For one afternoon, the lake surface sizzles.

Copyright 2010 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in 2011 by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets
Photo by Marcus Lofvenberg at unsplash.com

Through a Glass, Birdly

Bird

Every workday my lunch companion and I walked down State Street to campus and back. Every day I stopped at a shop window display to see a hand-carved wooden bird. Every day I laughed: the bird’s smirk-face and bulging bead-eyes reminded me of Ignatz Mouse from the Krazy Kat comics. In that first year on my own, it didn’t occur to me I could buy something like that just because it made me happy. I was content with a window view, but you know how love goes. One day my companion handed me a small white box. In white tissue paper, he had wrapped the wood-fashioned bird. That bird has flown along with me from home to home, each time carefully packed and unwrapped again. Forty years now, and it’s perched on the mantel over my fireplace. Forty years, and I still laugh when I see the pointed beak and upraised wings.

Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by the author

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