Stephen Roger Powers







The Game of Life


The twiggy tenant in the gas-can

cottage near the end of our driveway limped

down the hill through the oaks.  Tarantula

fingers, left index missing, arms sun-leathery

and wrapped in blurred tattoos, he handed my father

his folded rent check, apologized for the grass

growing to the windowsills, and shared

some stutters about his raise at the printing

plant where he packed reams of paper in twelve-hour

night shifts.  A yawn showed us his Skoal-gilded teeth,

so he said it was time for bed and slumped in his work

boots back up the hill to his American flag drape

in one front window, a black and white POW MIA

in the second.  When my friends were over playing games

on the deck that afternoon, screams and screams and screams

from the darkness behind the flags choppered down to us.

No one asked with concern.  The whole town knew our tenant

slept all day.  We carried on spinning the wheel,

passing money back and forth, piling blue and pink pegs

in little plastic convertibles pushed around the board.




Lou Ferrignos Delicate Feet


My stomach clotted with snails

whenever Bill Bixby’s green-eyes alarm

squealed like a tea kettle.

Under the Ottoman cushion on a living room floor

the color of mud, just his legs sticking out,

one sock pulled up, one bunched around his ankle,

my brother barricaded himself.

Muscles ballooned, sleeves ripped,

barrels rolled down a pier.

My brother and his strawberry Kool-Aid mustache

peeked out just in time to see

the Hulk’s green slippers—unedited, overlooked,

unraveled illusion impossible to un-see—slap

the concrete, slow motion run away.

The Hulk wears green slippers.

It wasn’t long before I learned trust

means different things to children and adults.

Even now I can’t un-see Challenger crumbling

in the sky like a clump of wet sand

between your fingers, or the President

bobbleheading a speech about heroes

who touched the face of God.

I mean, the Oval Office

is smaller than it looks on television.

I’m sure Presidents are too.

When I was thirty, a girlfriend asked me

if a childhood of Hamburger Helper

and a dented can of beets was embarrassing,

but my strongest memory of that supper

was the President after, voice fireside soothing

yet shivering with airplanes and bombs

in a place called Libya.

Before I knew it, I decided I could never be

an astronaut. I was used to seeing stars only above.

I knew I’d go mad if I was floating in space

and saw them below me too.






Apollo shot the Centurions and saved me,

but it was a drag the way

they split in half to the waist

rather than explode. After the escape

from the landing craft, I turned around

and watched the bisected Cylons

reassemble for the next tram.

Then I yelled to look out for the fin in the water,

but the man went under and the leaping shark

so scared me out of my seat the old lady

next to me got her white polyester

pants wet. The tour guide took us

past a thatch-roof set for a Gilligan’s Island

movie that was already forgotten.

To this day I remember an Incredible Hulk

brick-smashing on stage as filming with Bill Bixby,

even though it didn’t happen that way

and it wasn’t Lou Ferrigno in the make-up.

When we returned home to paper plate hot dog

and macaroni suppers, Muffy the daggit

crawled through vents to bring life

masks to voyagers trapped by fire.

Because it all looked like Star Wars

I ended up with a Cylon Centurion action

figure from a garage sale. The glossy silver

paint had been rubbed off to yellowed

white like my grandfather’s hair,

so it might as well have been a Stormtrooper

that went with me everywhere. One night

at my grandparents’ camper in the woods

I rosary-clutched it while we all

huddled under the collapsible table

and prayed for a tornado

to finish cutting down the trees outside.

In the morning the sky was glitter-sharp.

The leveled mess of ruin

surrounded the camper like a crop

circle. Each of us believed

something different

protected us.











Stephen Roger Powers started writing poetry thirteen 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 Followers Tale and Hello, Stephen, both published by Salmon Poetry.  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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