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
Returning from his morning run, Sean found a pair of hand-sewn face masks hanging on the handle of the front door.
“Those are from Patty our neighbor,” Brawnie told his husband. “I think she appreciates my keeping tabs on her, even at a distance.”
The boys wore their new apparel at the grocery store, where Sean works as one of the managers. His colleagues greeted them with good-natured chuckles when they saw the matching plaid masks.
“That’s okay,” Sean quipped. “Nobody noticed my hair’s getting longer and kind of raggedy around the edges.” Sean thought a moment. “Your buzz cut will take months to grow out. So you win that one, I guess.”
Back home, Brawnie cleared out a corner of the basement and unpacked his old barbells and dumbbells and bench. “With the gym closed indefinitely,” he explained with a hint of irritation, “I have to make my own.”
“Whereas I can just go outside and run,” Sean said with a smirk. “I think I win that one.”
Sean and Brawnie were married a year ago. They could not have known back then they would have to celebrate their first anniversary at home, socially distanced from the world. Brawnie made Thai Green Curry for dinner from a recipe Patty had emailed them.
“I don’t know which wine goes with curry,” he said.
“No one does,” Sean replied. “That cabernet you’re pouring is just fine by me.”
Sean thought a moment, chewing a cube of overcooked tofu. “So many little things don’t much matter any more.”
Copyright 2020 by Brian Dean Powers Photo by the author
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 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
It would not have mattered
to the world, I think,
if that little remnant
of life had dried up
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
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.
and gusty afternoon
in winter’s last days
the thin cataract of ice
left on the surface
of the lake.
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
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
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
“Where did we put those champagne glasses?” Sean asked from the kitchen.
“Try the cupboard above the fridge,” Brawnie replied from the living room couch, where he was sprawled out watching the ten o’clock news.
The eve of the new year had begun with a strange winter rain, that late in the day became sleet, then showers of snow. The sky seemed a gray fleece blanket above flakes weightless in white spacesuits floating slowly down in calm air. The roads and walks were so dangerously iced many wisely decided to stay safely indoors.
The midnight toasts were possibly a bit tipsy.
“No more Christmas until next August!”
“Huck the folidays!”
“May you let your chest hair grow out, muscle boy.”
“And may you chuck your pile of old running shoes.”
Several hours after midnight, Sean and Brawnie were asleep together on the couch, covered by their faded Packers blanket. The room was dark, except for the Twilight Zone marathon on television. An empty bottle of Prosecco and two fancy glasses stood sentry on the coffee table before them.
Outside, galaxies of starflakes gathered under streetlamps on a cold, arbitrarily named night that was beautiful to behold.
Copyright 2019 by Brian Dean Powers Photo by Catherine Zaidova at unsplash.com
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