April 5, 2016

Six Poems by Arthur Powers: "Air Force Troop Planes At Pittsburgh Airport", "Linhares", "Look, I Tell My Daughters...", "Three Metaphors", " Twisted Trees", and "Vespers"

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, Edgewater.  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. www.arthurpowers.com

Air Force Troop Planes
At Pittsburgh Airport  

Bellies swelling

              onto the runway,

              they wait:





(a Brazilian prairie lumber town at dawn)

I arrive with the morning.
The roosters greet me like trumpeters,
calling out across the city and
echoing.  Far down a cobbled street
mist hangs lightly between the pinpoints
of street lamps still burning.

I am reminded of
a print of 19th century Chicago:
the brick and wide dirt streets wake up
to the whirr of commerce; the loading
and unloading, the shouts, the men of
industry.  High above

the prairie clouds are churning:
there will be an afternoon thunderstorm.
It will strike fiercely and clear quickly,
leaving the city at night quiet and
starlit and pierced by the flash and whine
of sawmill wheels turning.

Look, I Tell My Daughters...

(The Brazilian backlands)


Look, I tell my daughters; look
and remember.  Night darkening
over a palm-thatched mud-brick house,
a wooden door opened to the night, and,
on a rough wooden table, a candle
casting light onto the dirt floor.

A horse tethered outside the door.

You will not see these things
much longer.


           A cowhand
in brown leather, his strong
weathered hand guiding the reins
of his brown stallion, lifting
a cattle horn to his lips,
blowing the loud, low sound
that guides the small herd
through the dusty streets
of the town.

Three Metaphors

(A Brazilian prairie town)


Restless like a traveller,
he hurries to where there is no station
and no train waiting,
carrying pride like a suitcase.


He walks where she cannot see him,
a lone gunfighter in a silent town,
waiting for his enemies.


Stars stand above a single tree.
Far across the blackened city
comes the silence of a dog barking.

Twisted Trees

(the Brazilian dry lands)

All afternoon the dry wind
pierces the blank sun-tortured land
where nothing grows but runted, bleached trees,
twisted like the sheets on a fever bed.

I am thinking of old fevers:
the white sun pierces my brain.
Slowly I remember a thin white hand
reaching toward an empty glass of water.

All night long I had lain
and dreamt of a land like this,
populated by waterless winds,
tall bleached bones and twisted trees.


(Rio de Janeiro)

The wall of the church
at Largo de Misericordia
are white as the dress
of the Mãe de Santo
who dances to the drums
praising Oxalá.

The statues of the church
at Largo de Misericordia
are gold brown as the skin
of the young drummer
who beats out the rhythm
of the samba.

The altar of the church
at Largo de Misericordia
has lights that rise
seven levels, like lights
of the slum on the hill
behind Botafogo.

Oxalá: chief god of Condomblé and Macumba, Afro-Brazilian cults widely practiced among the poor;  Mãe de Santo: a priestess of those cults;  Botafogo: a middle class district of Rio. 

~Arthur Powers

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