Stephen Roger Powers




Our Bodies are Like Blarney Castle and the Eloquence It Keeps


(The past is kept in a language no one willingly speaks.)


We gave ourselves only to the words shaken off our raincoat defenses of stories,

ignored the ancient ones fallen through missing floors of banquet rooms,


burrowed in rock walls, hunkered down

deep as dungeons, far under new ones


left on surfaces by vandals’ markers and matchsticks.


The note I’d die for you to write with lexemes finally tapped


away at bit by bit, pried out, brushed off, and pinned for display

will say you want me the way the pretty girl


on the platform wants that young man who’s just gotten on.

He happens down the aisle bent over loaded bags.


Outside on the platform, she walks along. He doesn’t see her

watching him farewell until right before she’s gone—


he dive-leans over the newspaper readers in his way,

hallmarks his fingers on the wet, dirty window where she’s put hers.


Sometimes when you watch a ceiling fan out of the corner

of your eye, its blades spin the other way, but


of course this train never turns around

the haunted trembling of his lips.


Starlings, startled from the power line along the track,

loop down and up, a foreign sentence across the sky.



Previously published in The Comstock Review and The Follower’s Tale (Salmon Poetry)






It closed years

ago. Summer customers

couldn’t find it at the end

of this pinecone-peppered road

down the woods. We whisper

about the Ramble’s black tupelo at Central

Park, where the moon was a marshmallow

on a stick like tonight, step cautiously

up the broken steps in

front, pull apart the rusty

padlock that no longer locks.

This is our best secret.

Inside we open our journal with blank

pages, struggle to plant stories

in it together. The white

sheets imply it’s time

to let out the breath we’ve held.

Nothing comes to us

except the moonlight through

a crack in the ceiling above

the bar. Bottles empty and filled

with cobwebs snaring dust

suggest a memory sets better

than what might come.

For now we pretend to be

carefree, like Foxie herself these days

when she checks her mailbox and finds

nothing in it.



Previously published in 32 Poems and Hello, Stephen (Salmon Poetry)




The Main Thing My Grandmother and I Had in Common Was Not Hearing Well


Box fans in hot classrooms and

oppressive churches were my biggest learning

impediment. Some clock-stop afternoons


they rattled and roared in my hearing aids

as loud as my grandmother’s television.

Dim distance made it hard to read lips.


Once I thought I understood

Give us this day our daily head.

The most reasonable commandment seemed

Thou shalt not admit adultery.


My grandmother loved The Golden Girls.

Old ladies brisked in a house nicer than hers,

flowed in clothes more expensive than hers,


Cadillacked errands in a city more interesting than hers.

All the sex talk blared right over her head.

She told my brother and me we dasn’t


make noise while her cake was baking.

What a sneaky, half-hour

commercial that show was:

Thank you for buying Depends!


Golden Girls Friday nights were ordinary

to my grandfather, whose white hair was striped

with a yellow brick road, but Wizard of Oz Saturday


nights were something special. Shirley Temples

for me, my brother, and my grandmother

came out on a silver tray, but brandy

[stanza break]


Old Fashioned sweets for him, my mother,

and my father stayed in the kitchen.


My grandfather’s funeral luncheon

was in the church basement after the cemetery.


Someone— swear it wasn’t me—

slipped in the deck for Nickel Knock


a creased and faded antique Nine of Hearts

with a nude Betty White pin-up.


My grandmother drew it. The way she threw it

down so fast, it could only have been


my grandfather’s last joke on her.


Late in the night following his burial,

I stopped in the living room doorway.


My grandmother was in the dark praying with tears

over the vigil candle on the hushed console television.


Like the shadows that falling water makes,

her rosary circled the wood-panel walls.












Stephen Roger Powers started writing poetry almost twenty years ago to pass time in the middle of the night when he was too energized to sleep after coming off the stage in comedy clubs around the Midwest. He is the author of The Follower’s Tale and Hello, Stephen, both published by Salmon Poetry. Other work has appeared in 32 Poems, Shenandoah, The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume V: Georgia, Rabbit Ears: TV Poems, and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems. He hasn’t done stand-up in a long time, but every once in a while he finds avenues for the performer he was born to be. He was an extra in Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, and he can be seen if you know just where to look.


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