S&R Literature

S&R Poetry: Two Poems, by Luke Powers

Painting on Papyrus

 The blue feathered ibis
	is a symbol of immortality;
the crescent-shaped lotus flowers,
	symbols of immortality;
even the goggle-eyed asp
	who sheds his skin,
			of immortality.

Surely the redskinned priest
	or honeybrown priestess
	striding in silhouette
		know this;
And the painted hieroglyphs—
	owl, vulture, eye of Horus—
	make it clear.

The only ones who
do not seem
to understand
are a long-tailed civet cat
			beautifully striped,
caught in the act of bagging
		a bluebilled goose
with red head and
		downy yellow belly,
beautifully dying.
Le Loi

I cross the red bridge
over the sleeping waters
of the Lake
of the Returned Sword

Here Le Loi
	went fishing
and reeled in
a magic sword

With it he drove the Ming
	out of Viet land
		and beheaded
their general;

he said: “better to win
people’s hearts
		than break down
castle walls”

The red bridge
	“soaks up sunlight”
		and leads
to the Moonlit tower.

After the war
	Le Loi went fishing--
		a giant turtle
	 of pure gold surfaced--

an immortal, it’s said,
	who seized the sword
		and dove back
	into the green depths

where it remains to this day
	in the shadow of
		the red bridge
and the moonlit tower.


Luke Powers teaches English and Folklore at Tennessee State University, an historically black university in Nashville, TN. He moonlights as a songwriter and has recorded with Garth Hudson of The Band and Richard Lloyd of Television.