Serenata d’estate (Summer Serenade)

Ripples

The park trees are ringed with concentric
circles inscribed by a riding mower. Half

the grass is green, half is burned-
out brown. The beach is closed, clogged

with weeds and toxic blue-green algae.
A little light rain draws overlapping 

circles on the surface of the lake.
The drops play a serenade of summer

both sweet and sour. Sweet for the season
of shorts and T-shirts I longed 

for all winter. Sour for carrying me
within spitting distance of seventy.

The rain passes. The lake shines
like a smooth, oval stone.

Copyright 2020 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by Jan Fillem at unsplash.com

Van Gogh’s Bedroom

Van Gogh's Bedroom
The artist returned to the Yellow House in Arles
after painting all day in the fields. Nature
stuck to him like a burr as he walked into his bedroom.
Pale-blue sky seeped into his walls, and the outstretched
wings of crows slipped into the window’s
dark sash-bars. Sunflowers settled
into the center-woven seats of the ocher chairs,
blossoming over the worn path of earth-hued floorboards.
A field of poppies managed to inhabit his red blanket,
but not even nature could make the room contain
the artist’s seismic swirls of moon and stars. 

Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain
Public Domain photo at commons.wikimedia.org

The Gestures with Which You Honor It

Jade
The woody stem
	was but four crooked
		inches long, bearing

eight oval leaves like
	blades of oars.
		I found that sprig of jade

on the hallway carpet,
	took it back to my apartment
		and harbored it in a jar of water.

Weeks passed. Roots
	grew. I gave the plant
		a pot of soil

and a spot by a sunny
	south-facing window.
		It would not have mattered

to the world, I think,
	if that little remnant
		of life had dried up

and died. 
	Weeks passed. One morning
		when I awoke

and was planted again
	in a budding day,
		I noticed two new

shiny and smooth
	leaves of jade
		turned about into the sun.

Copyright 2018 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by the author

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

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

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
Photo by Thiago Barletta at unsplash.com