July 1, 2015

Three Poems By Arthur Powers: "1903", "Tax Day", "From Starks to Mount Carroll"

Arthur Powers is from Illinois.  In 1969 he went to Brazil as a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived most of his adult life there.  From 1985 to 1992 he and his wife lived in the Brazilian Amazon, working with subsistence farmers in a region of violent land conflicts; through his experience with the farmers, Arthur came to appreciate more deeply his own Midwestern heritage. 

Arthur received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and numerous other writing awards.  He is author of two books of fiction and of a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (see below).  His poetry has appeared in many anthologies & magazines, including America, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Christianity & Literature, Hiram Poetry Review, Kansas Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Roanoke Review, South Carolina Review, & Southern Poetry Review.


It happens more frequently now.

White crossbars of a railroad crossing
against June green trees,

late afternoon summer sunlight
on a red brick wall,

and it is 1903:

Sunday afternoon -
four men in summer weight suits

walk between the railroad tracks
and the quiet brick factory.

The man slightly in the lead,
blond, mustached, open

German-American countenance,
is my great-grandfather.

Wearing a light gray suit,
summer vest, gold watch chain,

he half turns and motions with his
right arm.  The others nod.

Startling is the silence:
birds chirping, slight rustle of leaves,
the men’s voices murmuring.  

Tax Day

John grew up on a farm,
close to the Indiana state line.
He told me that, back then,
there was a day in the year

-  I don’t remember which day –
when the State of Illinois
taxed all personal property
Photo from Pixabay
located in the state.  That

was key: “in the state” –
so , the day before,
every farmer for miles,
their sons and daughters,

wives, brothers-in-law,
would mount every tractor,
planter, reaper – every movable
machine of any type and order –

and drive – slowly, slowly,
and yet with a certain joy,
a certain festivity,
across the Indiana border.  

From Starks To Mt. Carroll: March 4, 1968

    (Illinois Route 72)

(Starks)            Lone black branches bare
                against blue sky.
                A tree stands stark
                to mark the prairie and
                the arbitrary crossroads there.

(Genoa)            In Genoa, an empty factory,
                dark brick by the track.
                Beside it, a water tower’s
                skeleton, rusted black.

(the causeway)            Beyond, on a curve,
                the road lifts above the fields.
                Prairie grass flows down
                in waves of winter brown.

(Davis Junction)        Clapboard, streeted wide,
                white long ago when railroads pumped
                life in on tracks.  The stores
                wear the false fronts of their prime.
                Town-born storekeepers greet
                time-worn faces of dried,
                flowerless children.

(the Rock River)        The river is the center of the day.
                Here the road dips into a cup,
                green and cool in summer,
                but now, watered winter blue.

(the hill)            A sharp slight rise.
                For miles the land lies
                suddenly revealed.

(the hay)            Down from the hill the fields
                fill with golden overflow.
                Fresh mown haystacks dry
                in the dying sun, regimented
                in neat rows.
                        Such is the peace:
                war is a hundred years away,
                wears blue and tattered gray,
                in each town square stands monumented.

                                        Arthur Powers

Total Pageviews